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District Nurses' StoriesA collection of different stories from district nurses.

Whilst working as a QN in Lancashire in the 1960s, I was requested to attend a patient’s home where she was to have an operation for hallux vagus.  I got the room ready, boiled the consultant’s instruments, and set them out on a sterile cover.  The patient had an open fire in the room, and when the anaesthetist arrived he said we would have to put it out as he had decided to use an open anaesthetic (ether dripped onto a gauze-covered mask).  We all carried buckets full of hot coals outside, and the doctor doused the remainder with water.  As you can imagine, it was far from a sterile procedure. Fortunately, the patient did not suffer any ill effects.

Daphne Hulme

QN, Peterborough

I was a QN from 1953, in hilly Brighton, using a pushbike as transport, and absolutely loved it, particularly being involved with patients’ families.  I was working in a deprived area, but the patients were all so grateful.  I had just finished my morning round one day, and was whizzing down a hill back to base, when a small child ran out of her garden and knocked me off my bike into the road.  Fortunately she was not hurt, but I was badly grazed and shocked.  Her mother came running out and bought me a glass of brandy, which I had never drunk before as I came from a teetotal family. On returning to base, we had to report on our morning’s work to the Superintendent, Miss Watts.  I unfortunately had a fit of the giggles and hiccups, which made her really cross and irate.  She wanted to know, ‘Had I been drinking on duty?!’

Pamela Siemens

QIDNS, East Sussex

When I was a young district nurse/midwife, I took a job in the country covering four villages.  I lived in the largest village, in a house tied with the job.  The house was on a small housing estate. There was no electricity in the whole of the village, and on entering the house there was a strong country smell of kerosene lamp and lavender polish.  The house had a warm welcoming atmosphere and I loved it right away.

There were fields behind the house which were lovely, but a year of so after I had moved in, a few bungalows were built on it to house elderly people.

The residents eventually moved in, and by this time the village had electricity.  I remember that there was one particularly lonely lady who would ring me up constantly for me to go round for some problem or other.  Frequently, when I arrived home or on my weekly day off, the phone would ring and a voice would say, ‘I saw your light on nurse, can you come round.’

One day I visited her and she told me that it was a great comfort to see our landing light on at night (I used to leave the light on for my young children).  Then she took me into her bedroom to show me what she had done.

‘Look nurse, I’ve turned my bed round so I can see your light when I am in bed’. At that time, I had no curtains on the landing windows.  I went home and told my husband, who in those days was very sylph like as he pranced across the landing, that he had better buy some pyjamas!

Margaret  Modinos

Retired QN, Wales           

When my family had grown up, I went on to district nursing for five years around Croydon, which I really loved because it was a different kind of nursing altogether.  In hospital, patients do as they are told, but on the district, you are considered a guest in their homes: you cannot order them to have treatment and I found it a very wonderful experience for five years.   I loved every bit of my nursing career, especially the district nursing.  For in spite of all the new methods and techniques you still had to improvise a lot and to remember that you are still a guest.  I used to get some old ladies saying ‘Don’t come here while I’m watching Coronation Street.

Patricia Duffy

QN, West Yorkshire