Nan’s life as a nurse in Edinburgh

Hospital wards of the old Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh Nan decided to be a nurse because her Aunt was a nurse. She started her training at The City Hospital. She was 17 and it was 1942. Her pay was £2 17/- 1d. a week. She had to surrender clothing coupons to get her uniform.  Initially she did a three-month stint on the TB (Tuberculosis) wards. Treatment included the patients staying out on the veranda.

She also worked The Forth Road Bridge on the smallpox unit as well. After training she was the nurse for a pregnant lady who had suspected smallpox. The patient was isolated in a separate place on the grounds.  Nan had her appendix out after three months at the Western General Hospital. It was the same time that there was an attempt to bomb the Forth Road Bridge failed.

Nursing shifts were 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and a night shift was 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. There was porridge at 7 and on Sunday a boiled egg. Lunch was taken in the hospital canteen. Nan enjoyed her job although she had originally wanted to be a teacher. Nursing was hard work. Sterilising all the equipment led to raw hands. When the maids had a day off the nurses had to clean the wards too. There was a risk of infection especially when working in the isolation hospital. It took Nan three years to become a state registered fever nurse (RFN). She had one day off a week and a 1/2 day on Sunday when she had to get up for lectures 3- 4 p.m. and then go on a night shift. A bachelor uncle provided gifts for family children at Christmas. In her spare time she went to afternoon tea dances.

She stayed on for a year as a staff nurse and then went on to work at Forrester Hill for a general course. She went on to maternity training at Peterhead, staying in a local hotel. She delivered 12 babies. She was a health visitor before marrying in 1955.

She has never flown or been to England. She has visited Orkney and Shetland and cruised with a friend around the islands.

Memory contributed by Nan Green from Dufftown 

Additional links

More information about the City Hospital in Edinburgh

A Breath of Fresh Air: To fight Tuberculosis open a windowScientific American Article from 2007 about TB and an open window
” Higher ceilings and bigger windows might be simple fixes for fighting tuberculosis in hospitals strapped for cash”.  Modern twist (Scientific American Article) on the idea of opening windows in TB wards as was common in many hospitals throughout the country in the past including in the story above.

BBC article about TB and the sandbag cure
BBC News article about TB and the sandbag cure
“Back in the days before penicillin, TB was not just a killer, it was so deeply feared that sufferers were sent away to remote sanatoria for many months and years.

The treatment lasted for at least 18 months.During the 30s and 40s, many thousands of sufferers were sent to the Joint Cheshire Sanatorium in Loggerheads, Staffordshire.The sanatorium had 300 beds – and the regime, under the direction of Dr Peter Edwards, was one of “fresh air and rest”. Patients would stay for a minimum of 18 months, sometimes a lot longer.”

A memory of someone who lived near the Forth Road BridgeAn archive story by a lady who lived near the Forth Road Bridge during World War Two.

A second story about an RAF nurse’s life as an RFN during WW2.

Working as a fever nurse during WW2


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