Popular Politics Project
Interview transcript: Carol Lewellyn
Interviewer: Jean Kirkland
Date and place of interview: 13 December 2012, Darlington Library
Location of interview recording: Durham County Archives
CL My Name’s Carol Llewellyn and I was an 11+ failure. I went to Eastbourne Secondary Modern School and I got a job in the Tax Office when I was sixteen and I did A Levels at night school and I absolutely hated the Tax Office. I got married and when I had my first child, when I was pregnant I thought how wonderful it must be to be a Midwife and when my child was born, when she was a year, I actually applied and started to nurse. In those days they liked you to be a Nurse before you trained to be a Midwife. So what I did was, because I had A Levels I was able to apply as an SRN, which was a 3 year training course. I went for an interview in what is now the old Memorial Hall, and was interviewed by the Matron, who.. I was accepted and started training.
JK What year was this?
CL This was 1973, and it was 3 years and it was completely different to anything we have now. I think I was…I earned £94.00 a month. We were..we didn’t have Nursing Auxillaries, we were washing the floor, cleaning the toilets,everything was quite regimented, and I still think it’s probably better than what we have now. A huge amount of patient contact,and we didn’t really have the kind of academic work that people have now. We didn’t have degrees, nothing like that but we had a huge amount of contact with our patients, with their relatives, you felt as though when you finished your day you’d done a proper job. I loved it, I absolutely loved it and still do actually. I would not like to train now. It’s different completely, it’s very much a kind of academic paper excercise in many ways. And after the 3 years, I got a job on a Medical ward, which again I absolutely loved, I still think of myself as a Medical Nurse. Medical being heart attacks, strokes, that kind thing, although now things are so much more specialised that General Medicine is no more.
JK So what’s the difference between now and then when you just went in?
CL Well now people start they have..they do a degree, it’s apparantly all to be degree staff.Unfortunately fifteen per cent of nurses who get their degree never nurse. It’s a good way to get a cheap degree apparantly. They’ll do quite a long time in the University studying.
JK So they’re not getting the practical?
CL They don’t touch a patient.
JK So what was the practicalities?
CL When I trained well we actually learned how to make a bed properly. We learned how to give an injection. I’ve worked with nurses in the last year who have actually said, ‘Oh, by the way I don’t do needles.’ So how can you be a nurse and not physically touch a patient. If you’ve got a degree then maybe they’re a bit beyond doing a bed bath. To bed bath and care for a patient on that level I always thought it was quite a priviledge actually because they told you things and they told you stories about their lives which you would never have learned otherwise. I’ve spoken to people who remember such poverty, one woman said that on a morning before the dad went to work he had the boiled egg and each child in turn got the ‘hat’ off the top.I mean stories that you would never believe came out. People are just sort of wonderful, to get to know your story, know your patient, that’s what I always thought nurses did. And it’s such a joy if you do that, but it must be incredible hard work now if…
JK So they’re not getting the basics?
CL Oh no they’re not getting the basics,they might do 2 weeks in one department and 2 weeks in another. They get a very superficial sort of view of nursing. Nursing is changing massively and I think I can understand this because people come in for a procedure and 2 days later they’re back out. Well when I trained you’d be in for 2 weeks. So for a Hystorectomy you’d be in for 10 days,you’d be slowly…and be convalesed. By the way, I never became a Midwife, I became a Physcriatric Nurse instead!