In a nutshell… The story of a trainee nurse in the 1950s.
Weaknesses: Ending seems a bit rushed.
Why I read it: Serendipitous find on Kobo.
Publisher: Ebury Digital
Setting: Leeds, Britain
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
If you liked this, try: the Sue Barton books by Helen Dore Boylston
Ever since I read the Sue Barton: Nurse books as a girl, I’ve been interested in reading books about nursing, particularly in the ‘olden’ days when there were Sisters and Matrons and nurses wore caps. (I’m sure some of my nurse friends would be horrified with my thoughts). This book appeared on Kobo and I had to have it. It tells the story of Jennifer’s training as a nurse at the Leeds General Infirmary in the 1950s – the highs, the lows and the friends. This book is very funny in places (eg. climbing up a rope ladder after being locked out of the nurses’ home) and very sad in others (eg. death of a baby, a colleague being diagnosed with schizophrenia).
It also highlights the differences in nursing today and back then – in Jennifer’s days, nurses did some of the cooking for the patients, cleaned the ward (including dusting) and were expected to be subservient to the ward sister and Matron. These days, nurses don’t cook generally (that’s why there’s kitchen staff) or clean (orderlies and cleaners are employed) and everyone’s pretty much on first name terms. I’m not a nurse, but being called ‘Sister’ in my hospital is a term that you’re one of the gang, rather than a sign of authority.
It was interesting to read that about 30% of the other students Jennifer (or Jenny) started with actually completed the course. Nursing seems like hard work – long day shifts, split shifts, night shifts – and then study as well. There was bullying of nurses and restrictions on dress, code of conduct etc. It was heartening though to read about the strong friendships made during her time at LGI.
Easy to read and well written, this is a good read for an insight into those times. Although it wraps up rather quickly and abruptly, it is still an interesting one.