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Banburyshire Family History

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Dawn Griffis (née Alsford)

I was a pre-nursing and nursing student to be an SRN from 1956 to 1961 at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury. Those were the days when we worked on the wards anywhere from 50 to 72 hours a week and we got our lectures in our spare time! It was instilled in us that if the little things were not important to us then the big things wouldn't be either. That could be interpreted that cleanliness was the most important thing - if everywhere wasn't clean then we would have cross infections, wound infections etc. I can honestly say during my stay at the Horton we never had a hospital induced infection. It was important for the students to do the bulk of the work so we could learn how clean we should expect a ward to be. I wonder if they could say the same today?

A large part of this cleaning was performed on a weekly cleaning day for each ward. In those days the largest wards each had 36 beds plus an amenity room and a private room to bring the total to 38 beds. At times when needed 4 extra beds could be put up in the middle of the ward, with moving furniture around. A-Ward was men's medical; B-Ward was Women's medical; C-Ward was men's surgical; & D-Ward was women's surgical.

The cleaning day started as soon as the patients were finished with their breakfasts. At that point all of the beds and furniture were moved to one side of the ward. With long handled dust mops we did all the high dusting including the ceilings. The radiator duster a long wooden handled with rolled up sheepskin came out next to clean inside and outside of the radiators. Inside the windows were cleaned. With that completed then medicated sand was thrown on the floor to be swept up without circulating dust into the air. At this point the porter came in to run the electric scrubber to scrub the floors. After the floor was dry then they were waxed. While he was doing that we had to lift the heads of the beds that were visible to us onto blocks, (baring in mind the patients were all in their beds) then we scrubbed the backs of the beds and scraped and scrubbed the wheels on the beds. Wheels & floors are a great transporter of bacteria. When this was completed then the beds & furniture was moved to the other side of the ward for the whole thing to be repeated again. When that was done we then pushed the beds back to where they belonged so that we could clean the centre of the ward the same way including the wheels at the foot of the beds. The furniture in the centre were scrubbed and polished. All of this must be finished so that a bedpan round could be done before lunch was served at 12 noon.

Photo of a group of nurse working in the operating theatre Christmas 1961 - Dawn Alsford is next to Sister

A group of nurse working in the operating theatre Christmas 1961 - Dawn Alsford is next to Sister

There is a humorous story to this exercise. I had been working B- Ward for 12 weeks, the designated time for each student to work a ward to meet educational requirements. I was not transferred off as I should have been. The students that transferred in 5 in all, were all from the same class and 6 months ahead of me. There were no other students on the ward senior to them. They started arguing amongst themselves as to who should have the senior duties & who should be assigned the more menial tasks. Sister Cook the head one on the ward was a very gentle person who always hid from controversy so she did not sort it out. Guess who got stuck with all the menial tasks - me. We went through a ward cleaning day with the 5 of them refusing to help me, luckily we had a maid who helped me. During the following week we had an influx of patients so that we had 4 extra beds up in the ward and only 2 of the patients could get out of bed without help. I was facing a repeat of the previous cleaning day only worse. So that morning early I climbed out of my bedroom window in the nurses home & caught the early bus home to Oxford (my parents were living there at the time). I knew when I arrived there would be a telegram from Matron telling my mother to send me back. There was. Mum asked what it was all about I told her. She said I needed to eat my dinner before returning.

When I arrived back at the Horton I had to see Matron. She asked me why I had done it - I told her - I also told her that I had met my women's medical commitment 2 weeks earlier and should have been transferred out already, and plus I did not like B-Ward. She said to me a true nurse should like medical nursing. I told her then I guess I wasn't a true nurse because I hated it. That I wanted to specialize in the operating theatre. She told me to go to my room & report to her office the next morning for my new assignment.

Of interest Matron never assigned me to another medical ward until my 3rd year and I was allowed to stay in the operating theatre longer than normal. I don't know if I ever made it to being a "true nurse" because I still hate medical nursing, but as of March 2004 this year I have been a nurse for 48 years, so maybe I am! I do plan to retire in September 2006 making it 50½ years.

Written by Dawn Griffis (née Alsford)