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Matron said, ‘Nursing is much more than just a 9 to 5 job’

By john workman  |  Posted: April 20, 2013

Mrs. Barnbrook (nee Hadley) in 1960 as a 3rd year student nurse at DGH.

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We have received a wonderful response to a story we ran in November last year about the Dudley Guest Hospital, from Mrs C.V. Barnbrook of Romsey in Hampshire, who has also provided us with items of memorabilia from her time as a student nurse between July 1957 and July 1960.

Mrs Barnbrook writes, “The Black Country Bugle, as ever, prompts its readers to re-ignite times and places from a long time ago and even partly forgotten about, and this was certainly the case with me when I picked up my copy of Bugle 1057 and was alerted, not by a bold heading that read, ‘Gifts varied from five tons of old books to five pianos’, but by the pictures of two blue badges that accompanied the article, supplied by Robert Hickman of Halesowen, that originally belonged to SRN V.E. Stevens.

“The badges were so familiar the pictures sent me off on a search for my trinket box where I have similar badges that have been hidden away for many years, I thought destined never to see the light of day again until they are probably discarded or given away. There to my delight I found my hospital badge, also my SRN badge, No. 291380 – dated 29.11.60 (I have always known my SRN number by heart). The badge number is also an indication of how many nurses qualified between SRN V.E. Stevens in 1931 and myself in 1960, which is 231,755.

“The badges were easy to find, but less so any memorabilia from my days as a student nurse between ’57 and ’61 at Dudley Guest Hospital.

“In 1961 I got married and at the same time left the Black Country, and with several moves since, inevitably, things tend to get lost or thrown away.

For instance, many of my nursing notes which were well out of date ended up being destroyed.

However, I did manage to find a copy of the Nurse’s League booklet for 1962 and the certificate presented to me in July 1960 for passing my ‘Theory and Practice of Nursing’ examinations.

“My days as a student nurse at DGH were varied, from happiness, joy and laughter, to times of great upsets and sadness.

After all, at just 18 years of age, we were all suddenly thrown in at the deep end and had to grow up very quickly into mature adults. Matron at the hospital was Mrs McQuilty, and after moving to Buckinghamshire I received a letter from her reflecting on the time when, as a staff nurse working on the male ward at the Royal Bucks Hospital during the war, she had met her future husband. I often wondered what became of him as there was no evidence of a husband at Dudley, although she always wore a wedding ring.

Perhaps he just didn’t like hospitals? It was so wonderful to receive Matron’s letter, and as she quite rightly pointed out, ‘Nursing is not just a 9 to 5 job, it is much more than that’. She also referred to the move to a new hospital and the fact it wasn’t the same as DGH, a sentiment shared by several of the nurses. I wonder if Mrs McQuilty is still alive? “Looking back at my early days of nursing during the ’50s and ’60s, which the article in the Bugle prompted me to do, I’m sure many of the girls I trained with appreciated the strictness of the sisters, and I have no doubt their experiences held them in good stead during their careers; they certainly did for me. When reading my manual of Practical Instruction and Experience for the Certificate of General Nursing, it makes me realise just how many procedures have long since been discontinued following the phenomenal advances that have been made in medicine and surgery.

“I’ve recently become very interested in the history of the Guest Hospital, which is sadly no longer the vibrant and lovely place I used to know, and it has been so enlightening to read the Bugle article in edition 1057.

Now I know the naming of Messiter and Sankey Wards, but could anyone help me out with Princess Mary and Georgina? “Once again many thanks to the Bugle for escorting me down memory lane, and also for Robert Hickman’s interest in badges, especially those connected with Dudley Guest Hospital.

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