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Short Story competition winner

25/05/2021 General, Mickle Hill

Congratulations to the winner of the Mickle Hill Residents short story competition Miss S, with her separate short tales of two nurses who trained at different times in the city of Sheffield but at the same hospital. Miss S won afternoon tea in the Café Bistro at Mickle Hill. Read the winnng story below:


These are separate short tales of two nurses who trained at different times in the city of Sheffield but at the same hospital.

Marian trained during the Second World War. 

Uniforms had starched caps which were worn low on the brow - to prevent nits from getting in the nurse's hair --and their aprons crackled with starch.

She was allowed 2 day off a month and if they rose to the rank of Sister and got married, they had to leave their job.

She told tales of getting the leeches out of jars on a Sunday afternoon when Sister was not on duty and having races with them down the corkboard they usually put on the floor for patients getting out of the bath.

She could remember when there was direct blood giving - ie, one patient lay next to another patient and a tube transferred blood from one to the other -- goodness knows what sort of testing of blood type was carried out beforehand!

When a patient had a colostomy, bags to catch the waste had not been invented, they just packed the area with sphagnum moss.

When an air raid warning was given, staff transferred patients to the corridors of the underground which ran between the major buildings of the hospital. Thank goodness a large percentage of patients were ambulant.

All staff was in awe of the Matron who had total autonomy over all staff in the hospital. 

Marian always referred to her as The Presence -- but not to her face!

The only time she saw Matron slightly askew in her attire was, after an air raid, when she returned with the porter from extinguishing a fire with a stirrup pump -- at least, that is what she said she had been doing!

The second person is me who trained during the early 1960s.

There was still the same starched apron, but the cap was stiff paper that had to be folded and fastened on with white hairgrips.

We had 1 and a half days off a week but these days were allocated each week when Sister displayed the off-duty rota for all staff.

As you progressed in seniority over the 3 years of training, you sometimes felt you could occasionally request a specific day off -- but you did not necessarily get it.

Thermometers were of the mercury type and if you were the junior nurse on the ward, you had to take the whole ward's morning temperature whilst all other staff but Sister went to coffee in the canteen.

If or when you broke a thermometer, you had to go to Matron's office with the pieces. There you got a dressing down and were issued with a new thermometer. If Matron saw your face too often, you were really a 'marked' nurse whose progress was carefully watched.

Another job for the ward junior was to wash the top of each bedside locker, but not be seen to be speaking too long to the patients!

It was the era of static metal bed frames and when you were stripping the sheets off an empty bed to remake it, if you got near to the metal, static electricity ran up your suspenders.

Time progressed and I eventually became a Night Sister. 

Only the neurological ward, the Intensive Care Unit and the Operating theatres had a qualified nurse on duty at night time. So as a Night Sister you covered the whole surgical or medical and specialties block, including Accident and Emergency.

On one of the nights, the cardiac arrest bleep sounded about midnight and I ran to the appropriate ward along with medical staff. Unfortunately, this lady was subsequently pronounced dead and ward staff set about last offices and the lady was taken to the mortuary.

About 7 am in the morning, I was contacted by a staff member of the ward where the arrest had occurred. She was washing the face of the patient in the bed adjacent to the lady who had arrested and noticed that the face flannel which she had taken out of the bedside locker was not the same one she had used the previous morning. She concluded that the bedside locker of this patient and the adjacent bed had been pushed out of the way by the arrest team and the lockers put back at the side of the wrong bed.of both beds.

You may wonder why I then took a sharp intake of breath!  I remembered that the lady who went to the mortuary had false teeth and further questioning of the nurse confirmed my worst fear -- the lady in the mortuary was given the wrong set of false teeth!

After collecting the right false teeth from the ward, a trip to the mortuary was taken. After a bit of a struggle and the judicious use of warm flannel, one set of teeth was removed and the other set was inserted.  But what do you do with the reclaimed set of teeth ??  The best decision seemed to be to put them in the water steriliser for a 10-minute boil and quietly return them to the ward nurse with instructions to put them back in the correct tooth container in the correct locker.

I will leave you to ponder what was said to the patient  and her relatives about the escapades of her set of false teeth !!

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