I am not sure what Florence Nightingale would have made of Sarah Jane! The story starts with a sixteen-year-old country girl who, for no apparent reason at the time, suddenly decided that she wanted to be a nurse. Sarah Jane was entering adulthood with no obvious career path in sight. She had planned a traditional, some would say old fashioned, future. Her vision was to leave school, find a job in a local store, get married and eventually have children. Then everything changed, as she embarked on a journey which would help to map out her future by offering opportunities in a variety of places and healthcare settings. Find out how Sarah Jane deals with births, deaths and everything in between with laughter, tears and humility in this touching, sometimes heartrending, superbly written memoir. 'Ooh Matron!' is the first book in The Nomadic Nurse Series. Each book in the series takes you on a journey through medical specialisms and environments that formed part of Sarah Jane's nursing career. Throughout the series Sarah Jane uses her trademark honest and entertaining writing style to share insights into her thoughts, reflections and the changes in her personal life and circumstances as she moves forward in her career. 5-star reviewers say: 'I laughed out loud at the hilarious antics, and was sobered by the genuine emotional moments that all health professionals will recognise. This is a book that will make you laugh and cry and you'll feel better for it - The perfect prescription.' Bookworm 'This funny, yet poignant nursing memoir has Sarah Jane's trademark honest writing style which shines through in every story she tells. From starting her student nurse training in Essex to coping with patients in happy, sad and heart-breaking situations. It gives you a young woman's view into the realities of entering the world of nursing in the 1980's. A highly entertaining and informative memoir which was able to take me from laughing out loud to having welled tears of empathy.'
Chapter two: Student Nurse McDonald
I t was 10th October 1983, and after two years at college everything started to change. Until now the only jobs I could claim on my Curriculum Vitae or resumé included part time waitress, bar maid, summer holiday fruit picker and Christmas holiday turkey-plucker. These colourful job titles would soon be superseded by the status of student nurse at Colchester School of Nursing. The time had come to not only leave home, but to start three years of training to become a qualified general nurse. My new home would be in Colchester which, although situated only 19 miles from Ipswich, in 1983 for an eighteen year old who didn't drive, proved impossible to get to for a variety of shift times and patterns spread over the seven days of the week.
Classified as a 'remote student' because I lived with my family in Ipswich, I qualified for hospital staff accommodation at a subsidised rate which would be deducted at source from my earnings. The pre-employment paperwork confirmed that I had been allocated a room in a shared hospital house situated in Mill Road to the rear of Severalls Hospital. The majority of the hospital provided the psychiatric services for both in and out patients with a small part allocated to general hospital care services, including surgery, medical and respiratory wards. The hospital grounds were also home to the Colchester School of Nursing classrooms and library. After the closure of Severalls Hospital in the late 1990s, the education unit, part of the North East Essex Health Authority, became affiliated to the Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford and nursing students achieved degree status upon qualification. With its long history in psychiatric care and experimentation originating from its asylum days the hospital has many features and stories which I found really insightful. For any readers interested in the asylum history of the hospital, formerly known as the Second Essex County Asylum and Severalls Mental Hospital and the part it played in the 1950s psychiatric experiments including lobotomies, there is a supplementary chapter called, 'Step back in time' at the end of this book.
Use of the phrase 'nerve-wracking' to describe the day I left home and moved into the hospital accommodation probably sounds dramatic, but at eighteen years old a little drama is allowed. The emotional process of saying my goodbyes to my mum and my sisters turned out to be one of the hardest parts of this new adventure that I was starting out on. You would be forgiven for thinking that I was in the process of moving to the other side of the world given my age, immaturity and blatant emotional outbursts. The reality in fact was that I would be only thirty to forty minutes away by car which now sounds ridiculous. However, at the time, neither I, my mum, nor my sisters had a car so that analogy carried no weight on the way I viewed my situation. This next part however would be even more daunting, a step into the unknown, living alone away from home. I would not be moving into the comfort of a setting up home with my boyfriend or husband, which is how I always imagined the day I left home would be. No, this would be a whole new ball game. My boyfriend Keith collected me and my belongings from home in Ipswich and as we turned off the A12 and drove into Colchester the reality what was happening suddenly kicked in.
We drove to Severalls Hospital, as per the instructions in my starter pack, and picked up an envelope from the Porter's Office. The envelope contained a letter and a shiny silver coloured Yale door key with blue plastic tag labelled number SN/58MR. The hand written letter contained a crude pencil drawn map with a star marking the location of the property. The letter said that I had been allocated a room upstairs and that my room key would be hanging in the entrance hall at the property.
The hospital accommodation was a semi-det