Interview with my Great-Auntie Joan, a nurse

Recently I’ve been looking at different medical schools, so I asked my great-auntie Joan about her experiences at Barts in London, where she trained to be a nurse in the 1950s.

Me: Who or what inspired you to go into nursing?

Joan: I wanted to do something practical and worthwhile -the pay for my first month’s work was just over £7, so it was not for the money!

Me: What was it like to study at Barts?

Joan: It was good to be in central London, where I had friends who lived and worked, but it was hard work. We worked on the wards or theatres for a 48 hour week but with time off during the day for study and recreation. The facilities for study were good for their time but the work was much more practical then, than it is now. On the other hand one learns and understands much more by actually doing something fo patients rather than reading about it – even if the actual ‘hands-on’ work is, at times, rather grim.

Me: What have been your most challenging and rewarding experiences during your career?

Joan: One of the most challenging things was having to deal with a man in Casualty, who had fallen through a roof dragging a barrel of tar all over him. The training for my Girl Guide Laundress badge was the most useful for getting tar off his face, hands and hair!  He needed some medical help, too.
Another was a girl on her honeymoon, who came into Casualty and was transferred to the ward with a tracheostomy (quite rare in those days) and in an Oxygen tent. I was specialing her for a whole Easter week-end and everyone thought she was going to die – until to our surprise she aborted twins and walked out a week later!

Me: If you were just starting out now, would you still think that nursing is a good career choice?

Joan: NO! I think the country will be so poor/third world soon that patient’s relatives will be bringing in food and sleeping under the beds!

I’d like to thank my great-aunt for taking the time to answer my questions. She is a great inspiration!