A group of nurses who trained at Guy’s Hospital 62 years ago have been sharing their memories of strict matrons, daily uniform checks and exacting standards as part of celebrations to mark the NHS turning 70.
They included Jo Smith who was 18 when she started training to be a nurse at Guy’s in 1956 – eight years after the NHS was formed.
“They told such wonderful stories of life as a student nurse on the Guy’s campus”
She was one of 50 recruits who spent three months learning basic nursing skills at the Preliminary Training School based near Redhill in Surrey.
“Every Wednesday at 7.30am a double decker bus would arrive to take us to Guy’s Hospital for lectures and to help out on the wards,” Ms Smith recalled.
“We were known as ‘the lambs’ and didn’t really know what that meant at the time,” she said. “Sister Janet would inspect us all before we left to make sure we weren’t wearing any make-up and our uniforms were smart.”
Now aged 80, she was one of 11 retired nurses who met up recently to talk about their time at Guy’s with three taking a tour of the hospital.
After passing her exams, Ms Smith moved to the nurses’ home at Guy’s. “It was very disciplined,” she said. “We couldn’t be out after 10pm and we weren’t allowed to have a fiancé.”
Source: Jo Smith
The exacting regime extended onto the wards, she added: “The sisters were quite strict – if a bedsheet was turned down too far you had to re-make the whole bed,” she said.
Ms Smith, who is from Salisbury, left Guy’s in 1960 to train as a midwife in Southampton before having her two sons. She then worked as a health visitor until she retired.
Fellow octogenarian Arleen Gould, who turned 80 on the day of the reunion, also recalled the rigorous to attention to detail.
“I had been to boarding school but living in the nurses’ home was a lot stricter,” she said. “We all had jobs to do and I had to clean sister Janet’s bathroom.
“She was nice but firm and used to pull out the plug in the sink to check underneath and if it was clean you passed,” she said. “To this day, I still clean underneath the plugs in my home.”
Ms Gould, who was also 18 when she embarked on her nursing career, had moved from Somerset to London to train at Guy’s.
Source: Arleen Gould
“I loved London and always felt safe,” she said. “People would say ‘hello nurse’ as I walked by, because they could instantly recognise our outdoor uniform, which was a black cape and bonnet.
“During the day we had to wear caps with eight flutes in the back, which were a nightmare to make,” she noted.
She went on to train as a midwife and then travelled around the world for two years before moving to Taunton in Somerset to work as a scrub nurse in operating theatres.
After getting married, she worked as a practice nurse and then became a healthcare assistant, working until she retired just before she reached the age of 75.
Lorna Horman, aged 80 and from the island of Jersey, also took part in the reunion and said she would never forget her time at Guy’s.
“One of my earliest memories is the porters’ office at the front entrance – the matron would check every morning to see who had arrived back after 10pm,” she said.
Source: Lisa Davies
“We had to sign in by many of the nurses often wrote ‘Florence Nightingale’ so as not to get found out and I used to choose ‘Jane Eyre’,” said Ms Horman.
After she qualified, she worked on the psychiatric unit at Guy’s and left in 1961 to move to Guernsey and then Jersey.
She worked in nursing part-time after two of her children were born and later – when her children grew up – went back into healthcare as a GP receptionist.
June Allen, head of nursing for surgical oncology at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, said it was a pleasure to welcome back the nurses to their former workplace.
“It was such a privilege to meet this fantastic group of ladies who continued nursing throughout their entire careers and had such a vast wealth of experience between them,” she said.
“They told such wonderful stories of life as a student nurse on the Guy’s campus,” she added.