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100 Years Of Alder Hey – Dianne’s Story

100 Years of Alder Hey - Your memoriesThroughout our long history, millions of people have visited Alder Hey, including the United States Military during World War One. In this new blog series to celebrate Alder Hey’s 100th birthday, we are taking regular trips down memory lane to share your stories of years gone by.

If you have memories or stories of your time at Alder Hey, we’d love to hear them. You can submit your story on our Centenary pages.

Dianne’s story

September 1971 six weeks from my seventieth birthday and about to commence my first job, I was joining the ranks of nursing cadets with the expectation of becoming a nurse.

I was among many girls that gathered outside Mulberry House (nurses Home) to await the start of our working week and most of our instructions.

We were welcomed by several nursing offices that split us into small groups according to our age (I was one of the babies believe it or not) and our induction to Alder Hey Hospital started.

On our first day were given a tour of the hospital, a medical check-up in the staff sick bay and most of all shown where we clock on and off. A large important part of the day was a welcome meeting with the hospital Matron, Miss Roberts, the most senior nurse of the hospital, who ran the entire domain from her office in the management block

Our uniform was a distinctive blue nylon wrap around overall that had to be worn at all times.  We also had to adhere to the strict uniform policy of wearing black sensible shoes, black tights, tied back hair, no jewellery and our fob watch. We were issued with two overalls and a cape. I was so impressed with my cape, which was to be worn when walking in the grounds, especially at the start and end of the day, when going to the lockers in the Wolfsen Centre. We were to change on site, never allowed to go home in our uniform, they were to be laundered on site and all repairs carried out by the busy sewing room which was on the first floor over the kitchens.

Our working times were to be  8am until 4pm Monday to Friday and for those who were short of O levels attend Mabel Fletcher technical college twice a week (and I fell into that group),to  study for  further  qualifications . Whilst there I attained a further two O levels in English and biology which was to assist my future nurse training.

My first ward/department was F1 “the eye clinic “and I was happy to work there with a fellow cadet and our role was to clean equipment, prepare case notes and act as a receptionists calling the children into the doctor and arrange for the next appointment, we were never allowed into the treatment rooms with the families’ as that was the role of the qualified nurse.

We were moved from ward / department every three to six months and it gave us lots of experience first-hand as to what to expect as a student nurses

Ward work was totally different from the clinics ,we had much more patient contact making beds ,giving out drinks, ordering supplies, keeping the linen room well stocked and tidy and most of all preparing the children’s breakfasts and  afternoon teas. One of the jobs that was not liked, but endured was keeping the sluice clean and tidy, this also included using “chemico “ to scour bedpans and urinals . All the stainless steel bedpans had to shine .I would say most of our time was spent in the linen room and sluice as they were the rooms that were seen as the “Cadets responsibility”

We were responsible for making   the bacon butties, jam sandwiches and the fruit salad, yes we cooked on the ward and you were highly thought of if you were able to provide a good birthday party or keep the staff and patients well fed at 9am and   3pm every day when you were on shift.

We were also responsible for making numerous cups of tea for special visitors to the ward/departments, these included consultants after their ward rounds and staff from non-nursing departments.

Meal times for staff all took place in the canteen; it hustled and bustled as everyone had to use the facilities. Only drawback in the canteen was that when you sat down for your meal, you had to sit with your own group sisters with sisters, cadets with cadets etc. It was very elitist and there was a hierarchy that had to be maintained. It meant when you left the ward/department for lunch you could not sit at the same table as the staff that you worked with on shift.

The food was really good especially the rice pudding. I remember the nurses from the Adult hospitals would rave over our rice pudding, the Irish nurses from Walton Hospital always put ice cream into theirs to make it creamier

My last placement before I started my training in January 1973 was the milk room, where I quickly learnt how to make the numerous feeds, no prepacked then. There were hundreds of feeds made daily. I was part of a very small team that cleaned bottles, prepared labels , made up the feeds then autoclaved them before the wards came down to collect the racks of feeds required on the wards.

Not only did we make the feeds we had to inspect teats and bottles to make sure they were not damaged before they were sterilised ready for use, I learnt a lot about teats and Pyrex bottles, and the knack of putting teats on bottles. I would go home for nearly six months smelling of Farley’s rusks and powdered baby milk” national dried “, no SMA or cow and gate, as all of the brands that we have now did not exist then.

Highlights for the year for the Cadets was decorating the ward/department for Christmas and taking part in the annual garden party.

I loved Christmas as we all had a competitive streak to have the best decorated ward, this involved lots of paint, tinsel, cardboard, balloons and man hours. We would commence painting the windows with Christmas themes in November and build up to a crescendo at least two weeks before Christmas , erecting grottos, chimneys ,Santa  sleighs and of course the tree. Everyone would get involved from doctors to parents. There were the handmade paper chains and stars hanging in every nook and cranny on the ward. The wards looked great, although come 12th Night it was time to take down what was left as the trees were bare and most of the decorations had fallen down.

To have all the materials you required to decorate your ward  it needed funds ,so we would put on raffles, sell gift tags and refreshments to fund our cause, the senior sister on the eye ward was one of the most  avid fundraisers by  collecting old Christmas cards and then setting up a gift tag working party. Blue Peter had nothing on us.

The annual garden party, held in the grounds was a real crowd pleaser; people came from near and far to enjoy the day. Tennis courts , cricket pavilion ,the entire park was used to house donkey rides,  numerous stalls, beer tents, bingo, football, Morris dancing ,dog show s and the hospital league of friends. Local celebrities would also take part, Herbert the hairdresser would bring his stylists and they would help on the stalls. The Lord Mayor would present prizes at the end of the day from the cricket pavilion and the hospital administrator would give a speech, supported by the league of friends.

My first year I was allocated to work in two areas the tennis courts assisting the children on the donkey rides ,whilst still wearing my blue overall  ,it was an enjoyable time although   you had to stay down wind of the manure.

When not at the tennis court time was spent helping one of the surgical senior sisters on her bric a brac stall, a very well stocked stall with books, ornaments and knitted goods.  Her high stock levels were as a result of her well-advertised request for donations and a large linen room used for storage.

The Hospital radio and radio city boomed all over the park and on the wards, children were pushed out in their beds, wheel chairs and prams to experience the fun. The wards were virtually empty on garden party day, only the most poorly children stayed on the ward.

After about twelve months I decided that it was better to move in and live on site in the nurse’s home as public transport at that time was very sporadic.

My time spent    “living in” was very short as it was  difficult .There was a warden that spent her time checking everyone slept in their own rooms and of course no male visitors. A real stickler for rules, she took her role seriously, to protect and look after the young ladies of the home. This included a nightly tour of the corridors to ensure we were in our own bedrooms and not hiding unwelcome visitors.

We signed in and out every day and if you wished to go out of an evening you had to request a late pass, which allowed you to be out until 10pm, extended late pass until 11pm.

Although we had lots of fun in the nurses home playing our records, having water fights and telling stories it all came to an end following a telling off from Matron for staying out late.

A group of us had extended late passes so we went out to the Cavern (my first time), one of the girls had her coat stolen, by the time it was reported and we managed to get a taxi we arrived back at the hospital at 1105pm. In those days you had to go to the canteen and the night sister would sign you in and take you over to the home. Needless to say we were all reported to the Matron who put a stop to our night passes for at least six months. As it became more difficult to go home and then return before 8pm, I returned home and had to put up with the difficulties of the 61 bus route.

I completed my time as a cadet in January 1973 when I commenced my paediatric training and joined the nursing school (on site); our group was given the title of PTS A73.

Here I am 42 years later, semi-retired and still nursing, although not clinically.

I have enjoyed my time at Alder Hey and can say all of my memories from 1971 until now have been happy, fulfilling and extremely rewarding. My time spent as a cadet was enjoyable, hard work and a great bedrock for my broad career in the NHS.

My cadet experience gave me a broad understanding of the role of the nurse and gave me time to settle into the NHS and understand its working  before I  started my four years of training to become a Registered Sick Children’s Nurse.

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