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Training to be a new nurse in a new service

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Doris Morris, who started on £2.58 a month, still has faith in the health service she worked for in 1948

Doris Morris
Age: 77
1948: Began nurse training aged 18
Became: Queens Nurse
Retired: District nurse in Stevenage in 1985

Inspired by a nurse in the north-eastern mining village where she grew up, Doris Morris began her nurse training at Sunderland Royal Infirmary only a month after the NHS began.

Training was intensive according to Doris, who said: 'We were like little skivvies, we used to do it all. We had to take patients their tea, clean them up, do the bed pans, all sorts of thing and that was it, you just accepted it all.

'I was very proud to be doing my training then, they taught us well and we were thorough.

'We had to do all the cleaning, the sluices, everything. We had to clean these things and we were proud of doing it, it used to take us ages. We started at one door of the ward, cleaned the brasses, cleaned all of the lockers, and once a week we had to clean the windows and sills too.'

Doris recalls that all nurses were treated with great respect but that pay in the late 1940s did not reflect their true worth.

Her pay of £2.58 a month when she first started her career only covered the basics, but Doris was fortunate enough to be helped by her parents who bought her books and gave her pocket money to make ends meet.

Things improved slightly when she became a junior sister in the early 1950s on a cancer ward in Gateshead. Her salary increased to £32 a month, but a few years later a change in career to midwifery and district nursing meant her salary fell back down the scale.

Looking back on 1948, Doris said: ‘When the NHS started, every department in the hospital was run by matrons. Nurses were scared to death of her but it was a good system. They ruled over the whole hospital and it worked.

'I also remember the food improved because they got better food. I can remember trifles coming up onto the wards and I thought to myself how good they looked.'

Surprised but pleased the NHS still exists, Doris believes the NHS of today and six decades ago are two different worlds, but added: 'I had a cataract operation a month ago and I tell people that if I had paid £1,000 to have that operation I could not have had better treatment than I did.

'Things are not the same but nurses are still doing a good job.'

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