RCN centenary

The way we used to be

Anita Fatchett reflects on the changes in the profession since she started her nurse training at Bart’s 50 years ago

Anita Fatchett reflects on the changes in the profession since she started her nurse training at Bart’s 50 years ago.

Abstract

On November 15 1965, my friends and I started our nurse training at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Dressed in our Bart’s uniforms, complete with frilly dovetail caps, we began to share a whole new way of life.

Nurse training in the 1960s was mainly hands-on and most nursing work was directed by doctors. In addition to anatomy, physiology and hygiene, we were taught the correct way to perform domestic duties, including cooking, cleaning and flower arranging.

We practised giving bed baths to each other and had to experience using a bed pan behind closed curtains to teach us the importance of privacy, comfort and dignity.

There were many petty rules, including evening curfews, needing permission from the matron to live outside the hospital and never questioning a doctor’s instructions. But we all felt a sense of achievement and pride to be living and working in a great, historic hospital.

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This article was first published in print in Nursing Standard: volume 30, issue 15

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