“When Men were Men and Women were Women” and Nursing Students Were Young Ladies.

I have no idea where this saying came from except it is pretty old. I think I heard it as a child in a song about the early west, when…  Thinking of things old got the memory blister starting to bubble and boil.  Again.

Some people came to see to see my apartment the other day and one of the girls looked at a print I have on my wall which depicts a modern day nurse with a young patient and In the background there is an apparition of a medical scene with a nurse but the ghostly scene is as it would have appeared probably fifty years prior.  She asked if I was a nurse.

Friends of mine who were in the teaching profession have the same type of pictures but the depictions are of classroom scenes present and past.  Tonight when sleep dodged my tired brain my thoughts went back to what it was like when I was a probie in 1966.

Male nurses were rare.  I don’t think in three years of training I ever met one.

It was expected that ‘young ladies’ who entered training did not have part time jobs, because after all we were young ladies.

Our uniforms and caps were washed and starched heavily by the hospital laundries.

Nursing students lived in residences that had connecting underground tunnels to the hospital.

We had a Housemother whose apartment was on the first floor close to the reception area.  If we left the residence we had to sign in and out and mark the times.  Very strict curfews!  Young men calling to take a student out on a date never got past the reception area which did have a seating area.

Nothing was disposable.  Everything was metal or glass including syringes.  Needles were resterilized and you had to look for burrs on the end of them which occurred after multiple use. (Very difficult and painful entry for the patient if you missed one!)

Morphine came in pills which we had to dilute in saline and draw up for injection.

Doctors were very much the boss and we the handmaidens.

We mixed and applied mustard plasters for chest congestion.

There were no nasal cannulas or masks.  If someone needed oxygen they went into an oxygen tent which was moist, noisy and cold.

First years were at the mercy of the older students in subtle ways.  On my first day there was a lovely reception held for us and our parents.  Cake and tea for the adults.  We had a delightful punch the middle years had made for us.

On arising to knocks on the doors the next morning we hustled off to the large bathroom to get ready and everyone of us believed we might be dying.  The punch had been spiked with Pyridium a drug typically used for urinary tract infections, a side effect of which is red urine.  Some people see red, we peed it.

They were fun years of learning, of laughing and more than once crying.

They were great years, Pyridium and all!

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12 thoughts on ““When Men were Men and Women were Women” and Nursing Students Were Young Ladies.”

  1. I still have a metal syringe that my dad gave me when I was a kid (he was a doctor)… and I have other hospital memories but mostly from the inside as I was ill a lot as a kid. Metal everything… oh those bedpans… hot, straight from the sterilisor… eek! Many a scorched bum! 😉

  2. Fabulous re-telling. Wish I’d been there 🙂
    Again, I’m catching up on blog comments after another long 4 day yoga retreat in Boston… I got back Thursday night to over a thousand emails. Will begin a marathon commenting effort shortly! TY! 🙂

  3. My close friends in RN training during the mid-60s used to tell endless stories about sneaking out of “rez” and outwitting the cunning housemother. Tales of practical jokes played on each other kept us in stitches – for years.

    You were a special bunch, Joss. Thanks for all you have given to our good health in Canada!

  4. Hahaha! I love this. This was not all that long ago. But I can’t imagine girls of today “accepting” this as the way to do things. But from those methods came great nurses and caregivers with as much knowledge as the doctors. Funny, if I don’t understand something the doctor tells me, I ask the nurse anyway.

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