A Christmas message from Matron Brooke (part 1)

mbIn time-honoured tradition, the BGS blog takes a more light-hearted turn over Christmas. This year, we’ve received a pair of festive messages from Matron Brooke, the comic creation of Bridget Leach, Lead Nurse at the Heart of England Foundation Trust. 

My Dears,

My missive this Christmas comes not via my bureau in my room at Greenfields Home for retired gentlefolk but from a hospital bed no less! A little early but I find I have rather a lot of time on my hands this past week. I have been here for something approaching a week now and  to say I have been surprised both pleasantly  and unpleasantly is an understatement.

My journey (I believe any trial or episode in one’s life is now termed thus) began last Friday morning. I woke at my usual time of 5am (old habits die hard) and felt rather off colour; I decided a visit to my en-suite facilities was required rather urgently and started to make my way, next thing I knew I tripped over my bed table, knocking over one of my finest Capodimonte figuerines in the process. The staff heard my shriek and came rushing in.

The GP was called, which in itself was rather irksome. Every time I have the need to consult with my general practitioner, I seem to see a different member of the practice. I’m unsure as to why this is as I always offer the doctors the benefit of my experience and will often advise them on how best I should be treated.

The GP who visited on this occasion decided a visit to the district general hospital was required. I have never, nor will I ever, go to a DGH when a University Teaching Hospital is an option so I refused to get into the ambulance until I was reassured that I would be transported to the centre of excellence that is St Mungo’s.

On my arrival at the A & E department I decided it would be best that staff were made aware  that I was a nurse, and that I had at one time been matron in charge of the very hospital that we were in. This did seem to spur some people into action and I was immediately taken to a cubicle, much to the chagrin of a young gentleman who was making his desire to be seen very obvious, though I must say if someone had used that kind of language in my day they would have been shown the door without hesitation.

A very pleasant young nurse came to assist me and brought me a flimsy piece of cloth that I was expected to put on. I politely declined and said I would be content to remain in my flanelette nightgown which at least afforded me some dignity . A Matron’s bosom needs a decent coverage at all times and a hospital gown is of little use to a woman of my stature.

I was examined by a Consultant (in scrubs if you please) who after rather too much pulling and hoisting of my garments completed my examination. I was to be admitted for further investigtions. I wasn’t too keen but thought it might be good to see how things have changed on my wards. I was sent to Danvers ward or as it named now Ward B1.

The nursing staff were friendly and polite though I did need to correct them when they called me by my first name. I’m not sure anyone has called me that since school.

I was taken to my bed in a bay with four other ladies and informed that I was to be clerked. The junior doctor duly arrived looking harrassed; what’s more she appeared to have mislaid her skirt as her thighs were visible beneath what looked like little more than a belt. She asked me the usual questions and I responded, whilst adding in what I felt she ought to be doing in readiness for my review by the Consultant Physician in the morning.

I spent a wakeful night in what cannot be described as an atmosphere conducive to promoting rest! The poor nurses were run off their feet looking after the other ladies in my bay, two of whom were rather confused old dears who kept forgetting where they were and attempting to go home and one who was very chesty and in my opinion needed a inhalation of Friars’ balsam. I of course loudly suggested this but was met with blank stares.

My bay was then invaded by a man wearing no more than a pyjama jacket who apparently came from the bay next door. Well, I’m not easily shocked after a lifetime of nursing but the sight of a man in a ladies ward was enough to send me for my emergency call bell. What are they thinking – men and women on the same ward. If it wasn’t 3am in the morning and I was without my coat and hat I would have left without delay. I made note to discuss this with the ward sister and the Consultant physician first thing in the morning.

In the morning my porridge was palatable and served with a smile by a student nurse who luckily for her was wearing her uniform correctly. She told me she was in the Army Medical Corps; that explained the attention to detail with the uniform as some of the student nurses I observed appeared to pay scant regard to the need for clean and shiny duty shoes!

I wanted to be ready for the Consultant’s ward round so pressed my call bell to enquire as to the wherabouts of the washrooms. I was informed if I wanted to wait I could have a shower but if I wanted a wash immediately a bowl at the bedside would have to suffice. Needs must, I thought as I got my sponge bag out of my locker only to be brought a bowl of soapy water in a cardboard receptacle. The nurses had been so very kind but this would not do, when I asked for a proper wash bowl I was told that all bowls were now disposable in deference to infection control measures, do infection control measures not run to the proper cleansing and washing of patient bowls anymore? I managed as best I could and put on a clean nightgown and bedjacket in preparation for the Grand Round.

And so he arrived and didn’t the memories flood back. Accompanied by the ward sister and a host of juniors the Consultant swept into the bay. He certainly had the manner and grace of an eminent physician but the rolled up sleeves and lack of tie were somewhat reminiscant of James Harriot during the more graphic scenes of All Creatures Great & Small. He was indeed a most courteous man who told me that his father had been a pysician at St Mungo’s and still remembered me as “rather strict”. The decision was made that I would remain for a few days for investigation and therapy and he promised he would come and see me personally the next day. I mentioned the few concerns I had and he reassured me that these would be discussed at length at his morning meetings. I asked the ward sister to pop back and see me when the round was finished so that we could talk about what I felt was needed to bring the ward truly up to par. She reassured me she would try but had some very unwell patients who required rather complex treatment regimes that she must oversee and would take up much of her day.

So, my dears here I remain in my starchless sheets on Danvers Ward. Who knows, I may remain for Christmas. If I get a chance I will endeavour to answer some of the requests for advice that often come my way.

With Fondest Regards

Matron Brooke

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