I actually thought about being a doctor. This was in the '50s. I really didn't
know what nurses or doctors did anyway except from reading books. But I wouldn't
have had the money to go to university. The nursing school I selected, at that
time most of the nursing schools were hospital based. They had a training program.
You studied a little bit and worked on the floor. In fact, they counted on
the nursing students for staff. In fact I think that's what quite a bit of
the change was with being short staffed, was that when the nursing students
eventually started going into university and colleges, they weren't there as
workers. That made quite a crunch on the health care system.
I chose the Nova
Scotia hospital, which was a mental hospital. It would be like the Alberta
Hospital here. I chose that because they paid you a stipend, maybe $50
a month or something. The other ones didn't pay you, but they weren't
like now where you had to pay a tuition to go in. I guess they recognized
the fact that they needed the students to do the work. The usual complement
of a floor at that time, even at the VG which is where we affiliated in Halifax,
the big general hospital, the complement would be two RNs. One would be
the head nurse, the other was the assistant head. One of them worked the
weekend and the other one had the weekend off. The rest of the staff was
students, as well as some licensed practical nurses. Then on evenings, when
you were a junior student you were in charge on nights. When you were an
intermediate student, which would be the 2 nd year, you're in charge on evenings.
Then in your third year you could be...So that's how they worked it. You worked
as staff, and depending on what year you were in, you'd also be in charge
on evenings and nights. But that was a mental hospital. That's what I went
into. Because of the money. Because they paid you to go there. I didn't have
any money. It wasn't that much, but they gave you free room and board plus
$50 or $60 a month.
I went in to training
in 1960. I'd finished my schooling, grade 11 anyway, in '57 or '58. Worked
for a year and went into nursing...
They had locked
wards. They would take the students on a tour of the hospital. I'm sure
they liked to do that. They liked to scare us. Hi Jenny, how are you?
It was, screw you, I'll kill you, and all this. It was like One Flew
Over the Cuckoos Nest. A lot of that stuff was true. The wards were all
locked. We didn't have any open wards...
They locked them all up. They were just going into psychiatric drugs at that
time. It was a changeover going from the '50s to the '60s. They still had a
lot of these treatments, like for schizophrenics where they'd give them a high
dose of insulin and put them into insulin shock and let them sleep. The things
they did. There was a lot of electrical shock. They had a whole ward for that.
We had the isolation rooms, all of that. You locked them up until they smartened
What I remember is
that the nursing model was based on a military model. ...The
attitude there was we were kind of the lowest of the low. You had 3 levels.
There was the probie, the probationer that had 6 months. You were nothing.
They would be what is termed abusive to you now, which pretty well they
are in military training too. You'd be walking along and they'd say, How
are you today Ms. Woodberry? Fine. You're going to work? Ya. Do you notice
anything untoward about your appearance? What do you see there? What's wrong
with those shoes? You are given a stipend at this hospital, are you not?
And how much is that? And how much does shoe polish cost? We were scared
to death. I never learned anything till I graduated, to be truthful. I was
scared to death of my instructors all the time.
Remember we were only 17 years old. We had a lot of energy, though. So anyway,
you were asking about the attitudes. We lived in a dormitory. The attitude
of the military, as I was saying, is that the lowest of the low was a probie.
After 6 months you got your cap, then you became junior, which was a step up.
Then there was the intermediate. We opened the doors. We stood for any level
above us. We did not go in the door first. You opened the door for the juniors,
They didn't have people to supervise what you did. They were just interested
in supervising like if there was a catheterization to be done somewhere, or
a dressing. Because we didn't have that many as a medical floor. But the rest
of the time we just basically worked, we were the staff there. It was kind
of fun. It was hard work, but it was fun. But it really was training. It was
kind of like boot camp, so you got together and became a cohesive group as
you moved through your years.
We weren't allowed to make mistakes. Now you can make a mistake and you get
a warning. You'd be out of there. In that probation year you had to make 75%
or something. They'd say, look around you, this is how many is in your class.
There'll only be half left. They liked to scare the hell out of the new people.