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Nurse's Voices - Nicky's Story

9th February 2021

We have recently had a surge in the sales of our Nurses Voices books, which explores memories, experiences and perspectives of nurse and nursing care in order to give insight into the development of nursing during 20th century at St George's Hospital, and we have been lucky enough to hear a story from a nurse featured in the book!

Nicky got in touch to purchase one of our Nurses Voices books, telling us she was featured in it, and has enlightened us with her own fascinating story of nursing from St George’s to now!

“I was interviewed for my training in a room at St George’s Hospital Hyde Park Corner as a very nervous 17 year old who had barely been to London before; I promptly walked into a cupboard and then to my embarrassment had to find the door for my exit, but I was still accepted for my training which started at St George’s Hospital Tooting in the early 70s. We nurses lived in Dorcas and Bronte house; the red brick buildings which were later used as offices and can still be seen on your right; on entering the site.

We never had to worry about what to wear as we were given a pristine starched dress and apron every day and a plain nurse’s cap until you qualified when we received a beautiful frilly cap, which was quite difficult to make up and a belt with a buckle, which all felt and looked really smart.

After our first year’s training we started work at Hyde Park Corner, which is my favourite Hospital I have ever worked in, as the atmosphere was wonderful and there was a certain buzz and excitement; if you were on duty on New Year’s Eve and all your patients were asleep all you had to do was look out of the window and find the world celebrating down below and waving up at you!

We lived in an old house; turned Nurses’ home on the Embankment and in Notting Hill and cycled up to Hyde Park Corner although you could drive up there and park in any of the surrounding roads before the days of parking meters and permits!

Some of my set left as Nursing wasn’t quite the job they thought it was going to be, but I absolutely loved it from the word go; I had found my calling and vocation. Hurray! Nursing was hard work as it is now, but also all about team-work; camaraderie and fun; you see everything life has to offer; the happy moments such as a baby being born or a very sick patient recovering; and the sad things such as people dying; catastrophes such as the Hilton Bomb which brought us about 60 casualties in about 1973; as well as other IRA atrocities; Aids coming to this country in the early 80’s ; the Clapham Rail disaster, that took me to St George’s casualty to volunteer after hearing about it on the radio; and the 7/7 Bombings in 2005, to name but a few.

I stayed at Hyde Park Corner after I qualified; until alas it closed in 1978, as people who lived in Tooting were being brought up to Hyde Park Corner, which was too far for their relatives to come and visit them and very sadly the Hospital had to close and I returned to working in Tooting.

Years later I bumped into a Sister whom I’d worked with on one of the wards  at St George’s Hyde Park Corner, and exhausted I was telling her how short-staffed we were, when she told me how she was now the Matron at St George’s Private sector; Parkside Hospital and invited me to come and work there and I started there practically the next day (the previous Matron used to arrive to work on horse-back riding across Wimbledon Common.) and I have been working there ever since; still cycling to work on my 60 year old bike.

We have Nurses’ reunions every year at the now Lanesborough Hotel which was the previous St George’s Hospital; trying to be quiet whilst business people or couples are trying to have a quiet lunch whereas we’re rather noisy customers; we love looking round and reminiscing. The Hospital Chapel where several of my nursing friends got married is now a stunning bedroom suite, which comes at a price!!

Naturally we weren’t able to go this year (2020), so I suggested jokingly they might deliver some goodies to St George’s Hospital which they did on St George’s day, when they delivered sandwiches; cakes and scones for about 300 staff at St George’s.

In about 2000, I took part in the putting together a book called ‘Nurses’ Voices’ in which retired nurses who nursed between 1929 and 1990 were interviewed to tell their story which was fascinating, as they of course had to nurse through world wars.

And here I find myself having been nursing for nearly 50 years; the work load is heavy and busy as always; my only sadness is that the paperwork has increased enormously giving us less time to concentrate on our patients; but otherwise I still love my- I don’t call it my job- it is more my calling and of course we are now finding ourselves in a pandemic that no-one has ever seen before but life is always full of surprises and challenges; no two days are ever the same, which is what is so wonderful about nursing; and once the rather grey winter is behind, the invincible summer will as always shine through and I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to help the NHS a little as we are now taking non-Covid NHS patients at Parkside (a ‘Covid’ FREE (green) zone) to lighten the load of St George’s and to volunteer giving the vaccines.  I hope to be able to continue until the computers get the better of me, as it so wonderful working and helping people.”

We absolutely love learning more about the history of our workplace and the people in it, especially amazing stories like Nicky’s who we thank for all her amazing service over the years! If you are interested in finding out more, purchase a Nurse’s Voices book here.

Photos: Taken of Nicky in the early 70s on the roof of Hyde Park Corner the day after she got engaged

Photos: Taken of Nicky at Parkside Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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