Janet Johnstone Craig was just 16 when she joined Dudley Road hospital in the September of 1947 as one of the first pre-nursing students, before starting her career on the wards during the early days of the NHS in 1948.
Janet was one of sixteen young girls selected, following interviews, to take part in the first pre-nursing course at Dudley Road hospital.
On arrival at the Nurses home the girls were introduced to their tutor, Miss Marguerite Herbert. She was a nursing sister, newly appointed to teach and supervise this new course. The rigorous training programme required 24 hours a day, seven days per week dedication, for a one year period. This intense course would allow the girls to start working on wards up to six months younger than anywhere else in the country.
The new class were allocated their own section of the Nurse’s home so as not to be a nuisance to the general nursing staff. Miss Herbert allocated the bedrooms to the girls. “I found myself sharing with a very lively girl. This was a culture shock for me, but we got on so well, and are still friends today” Janet said.
A typical day as a pre-nursing student at Dudley Road hospital, 1947/8:
6.30am – Woken up by a knock at the door by Miss Herbert.
7.30am – Report to the Sister-in-Charge in the dining room, before eating breakfast. “Whilst we ate breakfast, our rooms were being inspected by Miss Herbert. If the beds were not properly made they would be stripped so that they would require been re-made, before inspection again later in the day” Janet said.
8.00am – Morning lectures began.
12.30pm – Morning lectures finished at 12.30pm when the girls would return to the dining room for lunch. Following lunch they had free time until 3.00pm. “Although they called it ‘free time’ we were not allowed to leave the hosptial grounds, nor wander around them. During this time there was a tennis court which we were free to use. Otherwise we spent the time quietly reading in the lounge, listening to the radio and studying.
3.00pm – Report to the gym for physical exercise for an hour. “This usually took the form of netball, played outside, in a square situated between blocks of wards, much to the amusement of the patients and embarrassment of ourselves” Janet explained. If it was raining, the indoor gym and its equipment were used.
4.00pm – Dinner in the dining room.
5.00pm – Evening lectures began.
8.00pm – Evening lectures finished. Supper was served in the dining room.
9.00pm – An hour of ‘free time’ before lights out
10.00pm – Lights out. “Miss Herbert would do her rounds to make sure the lights were out, and checking later in case any had gone on again” Janet said.
The graduates with tutor Miss Herbert (centre)
“Our wage would be £1 per month, minus B&B. When I left after four years training I was receiving £8 per month as a senior nurse” Janet explained.