NHS 70 stories - Sheena's Southmead memories

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Sheena Taylor is a staff nurse in the Chemotherapy Suite in Medical Day Care.

She first joined Southmead in 1972 when she started her nurse training at the hospital.
Here are some of her memories of the last 46 years:


I stayed in Gloucester House nursing home which was opposite Somerset house nursing home. The buildings are still there just inside the Southmead road gates. The senior nurse stayed in Monks park nurses home. Sheena Taylor at work in the Chemotherapy Suite, Medical Day Care, Southmead Hospital - 36 years after she started her training at the hospital

The wards were all off a main corridor then. X-ray, physio, pharmacy, CSSD and Matrons Office were off the corridor as well.
There was a baby’s ward, John Milton. This was separate to the main hospital and was housed in a building all of its own probably where the Lion is placed now, if I remember rightly.

There was a shop on the other side of the road which went through the hospital. It was to the side of the old C ward. This was later demolished to make way for the Social Club. We had a bank, which was near the old nurses’ canteen. The canteen was a small room in the buildings by the Matron’s House A new canteen was built years later which was by the doctor’s residence by the old tennis courts (behind Monks Park nurses home). The doctors had their own canteen in the building. They didn’t eat with any other hospital staff then. How times have changed now!

We even had a football pitch. At Christmas a show was put on by the staff in the large hall in Monks park nursing home. The highlight of the year!

All our uniforms were made on site. The sewing room was up a metal staircase in amongst the buildings where the maintenance people and porters were.

Our brilliant gardeners at the time would have a couple of open evenings where the public could come and admire their plants, which were grown in the greenhouses.

In 1972, when I started my SRN Nurse training, there was still a matron here who did the ‘dreaded rounds!' There could be no ladders in stockings, uniforms had to be ironed and clean. Hats had to be starched and not a hair was to be seen on your collar!

We did six weeks in Pre-training School (PTS) before being let loose on the wards. The school was in a bungalow near Monks Park nurses home. I was a proud member of the Southmead Group School of Nursing.
On our first ward we would have to help the patients dress, help with bathes, do bed baths, washes, bedpans, serve the meals - from a heated trolley and we served small or large meals but there was no choice for the patients.

We would add up and fill in fluid charts, do observations and observe the senior nurse do dressings amongst other things.

We had no mobile phones with apps or calculators so when we put IV fluids up or blood - later in my training - we would have to work out how many drips per minute were required for the infusion to go through in however many hours was prescribed. The fluids and blood were in glass bottles. We would have to stand by the giving set with our watch in our hand and start counting the drips. This was okay until the patient moved their arm and I would have to start all over again as it changed the rate.
Making beds was always with two nurses who had to work in unison and the hospital corners  had to be perfect. 

During ward rounds some of the older consultants wanted everything to stop on the wards when they saw their patients. It was great when younger consultants were appointed as the tradition ended and the nurses could carry on tending to the patients.

We didn’t have hoists then. Nurses would work in pairs and physically lift patients up the bed or onto the chair.

On the Orthopaedic ward, the Senior Sister would make sure the patients ‘bottoms’ were looked after as she didn’t want any pressure sores on her ward. We would do regular ‘back’ rounds which included ice to rub on their sacral areas. This was believed to prevent pressure sores at the time!

Sheena Taylor in her days as a student nurse at Southmead Hospital in the 1970s

A Senior Charge nurse on a medical ward would stand by the door to the ward with his watch in his hand at the start of a shift. He would shout “nurse  you are two minutes late. I do not want this happening again” -apparently he had been in the Army.
We were not allowed to wear gloves unless it was for a surgical procedure. All care, even the worst you can think of, was done with clean bare hands. All I can say is thank goodness for gloves now!

When on night duty on R ward, Urology, the junior nurse would have to start between 4.30am and 5am and empty all the urine bags. The trollies had squeaky wheels so we inevitably woke the patient. We would empty the bags into a measuring jug, pour that into a bucket on a trolley, document it on the fluid chart then go to the next patient.

I can also remember phoning around the wards to find a male nurse to catheterize a male patient. Sometimes we were lucky…male nurses were few and far between on nights.

Patients stayed in hospital a long time then - nine-12 days. They were not allowed out of bed for a few days, then they sat in the chair for a couple of days before they could walk. Not a TED stocking in sight then!

1980s in outpatients

I took a break from nursing to have my son and returned in the early 80s to work in Outpatients.  Morning orthopaedic clinics with up to 40 or more patients was normal then.

Outpatients was so different from the wards and the hours suited me at the time as I had a young son. I enjoyed the clinics especially Dr Kennedy’s  dermatology clinic twice a week. I did the leg dressings and treated warts, mainly on hands and face and also verrucas with liquid nitrogen. I was known as the Wart Queen by a lot of the doctors and during my time there, I was visited by doctors and a couple of consultants to have their warts zapped.

I can remember frequently phoning the labour rooms to find out if they had any fresh placentas that I could use on a patient’s leg ulcer. For a time it was believed that they helped with the healing of the ulcer. It was a messy procedure!

One of the final nursing exam papers Sheena has kept from the 1970s when she was training at Southmead Hospital

Late 80s-90s

I left again to have another baby after seven years in outpatients. I was going to stay home with her and not nurse again.

Ten years on I heard an advert on the radio for a return to nursing course at Southmead for only £50. I don’t know why but I went straight to the phone and booked an interview. This was Christmas 1998 and I started in January 1999. I completed this course and worked on the bank for a while but health problems meant I needed to take time out.


In 2001 I returned and I joined the Haematology team in 2002. 16 years later I am still with the team. I did a chemotherapy course at UWE and have been giving chemotherapy for about 13 years now. I couldn’t wish to work with a better team. A lot of staff in the hospital don’t even realise we give chemotherapy in Southmead.

I have never wanted to work in another hospital. I trained at Southmead and will stay faithful to them until I retire next year. I hope to retire December 2019 when I would have worked 30 years in Southmead and enjoyed every minute doing a job I love and having the opportunity to help many many people.

Sheena's nursing badge and certificate