Talking with strangers in the city is always interesting.  A man I sat next to on a bus told me he had accompanied his very elderly neighbour, when she had been admitted to hospital the day before.  She’s 93 years old, compos mentis, he said  She hadn’t seen the inside of a hospital since she resigned as a senior nurse in the 1940’s. (Probably  had to leave her post upon marriage).  The modern, 2017, hospital environment was, no doubt, a bit of a shock to the lady.

Pointing out a young girl working in the ward wearing a light blue dress the elderly lady observed, with some disdain, that  the hospital management had left the housemaid to look after the ward!  The man explained the ‘housemaid’ was wearing a staff nurse’s uniform.

Staff Nurse 3

Late 1950’s Staff Nurse

Why is she not wearing her [starched] hat?” … And   “Why aren’t doctors wearing their white coats,” and so on.

More explanations were required.

On the other hand, the senior nurse, (equivalent of a ward sister) who arrived at the bedside in her dark blue dress and her I.D. badge pinned to it, no frilly starched hat though, was received without query.

Marian Chaikin 3rd wife

1960’s Nursing Sister


    • The Nightingale wards are in living memory, Mr F; I am not sure they have all gone. Technology has changed so much, as has understanding of of hygiene. Hospital corridors don’t seem to get much shorter! xx

      • YES! Once upon a decade ago I could call orthotics and get my back brace renewed/repaired within three to four weeks, nowerdays it takes two to three months!!

  1. Hi Anne-Marie,

    That is quite an invidious comparison. It would br good to have important and appropriate support skills levels staffed up. It’s not as if the skills don’t exist, they do. It’s a deliberate policy of reductionism, which, in all likelihood will lead to a loss of skills. So sad and awful for people who need the help. XXX

  2. Often fun to chat to strangers! I must admit, although I’m up to date in my experience of hospitals, the way things are cleaned, and the way the staff are dressed, do sometimes take me by surprise. Or at least, leave me musing very much along the lines this discussion suggests.

    • Hi Gill,

      Materials used in furnishing hospitals were ill-thought out in the early 90’s, for example, carpet squares: much easier and quicker to vacuum than do all the floor washing and maintenance cleaning, which had previously been undertaken. General cleaning has been an outsourced, (but vital) activity to the ‘most keenly’ priced bidder, as has been seen by the crises in hospital and ward hygiene. When the genie was let out of the bottle it was very difficult to contain, even when some Trusts brought cleaning back in-house. As for professional hygiene, from what I hear, I do wonder, in a number of incidents we hear of, just how much groups heed hygiene research, and what reinforcement and management of it there is.

      On the other hand, there is much individual care, empathy and a desire to provide the best outcomes for patients in the face of an incredible amount of adversity. For every one individual who passes the buck, or who dismisses patients concerns, I have found many more who haven’t. Unfortunately, they’re the ones who take on an untenable, unequal load.

      Hot-bedding is a constant in hospitals these days,. If the ‘housemaid’ in the light blue dress was of note, it makes you think she was doing quite a few cleaning jobs…beds preparation being one that comes to mind.

      Thanks for comment,as you see, it generated a few thoughts.

      • In current times, that is a lovely thing to hear Gill. I, too have seen some almost superhuman responses from qualified and auxiliary staff.

        Just heard today, that people admitted as emergencies in our regional hospital, requiring really skilled delicate surgery, had operations put back by a day or two at a time, because other emergencies rolled in behind them. It is an invidious thing to have to decide who or what, is more serving of emergency treatment at any given point, hoping upon hope that no other condition overtakes any individual whose operations has been put back. Lack of resources because of reduced/closed theatres (efficiency savings) so less staff is putting workers at breaking point, their lives and that of their patients at risk. BTW the regional hospital does not have a full complement of disciplines, as you might expect in what is considered to be a major regional resource, covering an area the size of Belgium.

  3. You never know what is likely to come up when talking to strangers. This was interesting, what a shock the lady must have got, I think I’d prefer the discipline of the past, nurses don’t seem very keen on nursing patients these

    • Hi Snowbird,

      I have seen some of what you suggest, especially in rehabilitation units, which are anything but…. however, there may be others that do function as you might expect because the staff have leadership.

      Nurses in acute wards have a much more technical job these days, freeing up the doctors to concentrate on clinical concerns. It seems, in tandem with it, ward paperwork management takes priority. The now defunct SEN provided a really good tier in hospital ward bedside care. Today’s ward auxiliary appears to partly plug the SEN gap. The ‘efficiency’ drives make the workplace demands difficult to juggle I should think.


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