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Probie | Surgery | Home Life

A nursing pupil, date, place unknown

I suppose all nurses dread night duty. I know, when one day I was told to go to bed at 10 am and get up with the night nurses at 5, I did so with a sinking heart and a feeling that the trial of my life was before me.

On going to the Hospital at 7 pm, I found Wards 2 and 4, Women's Medical and Surgical, assigned me. The head nurse of each ward went over the night orders with me, and after they had gone I realized fully the heavy responsibility now mine, and my one though was, 'How am I going to accomplish it all?' But there was little time for asking myself unanswerable questions; there were a dozen PRN orders to be attended to at once, half-hourly hypodermic injections to one patient, hourly poultices to another, hot compresses to another and three patients in this ward had little babies, to whom nourishment was given every three or four hours. Here were also three paralytics needing almost constant care, and one old lady who was in the habit of taking midnight strolls around the ward and had to have a sharp eye kept upon her, for all the patients feared the ghost-like form of old Bridget in her little short gown and huge carpet slippers.

In the surgical ward there was much to be done also. Hot stupes every twenty minutes to one, cracked ice in very small quantities to a late operation case, and drinks to little Annie, whose legs were incased in plaster of Paris from toe to hip, and that made her 'werry fursty' she said. Then there was little Thomas, who used to sit up in his cot at unheard-of hours, calling most pathetically for his one comfort in life, which he designated his 'ging ging'. Mary Jane had run a rusty nail into her foot, and had poultices applied every hour. Delia had fallen downstairs, spraining her arm and shoulder, and to these parts compresses had to be placed at frequent intervals. One patient had tried to put a bullet through her heart, but had missed it, and was fast regaining her normal state physically, the bullet having passed out through her back. Twice during the night she tried to take her life - once by tying a handkerchief tightly around her neck, and once by stuffing the sheet down her throat; she was constantly knocking for the nurse, and when I would go to her would beg me stop the snoring, as she would be passing away soon and wanted to go quietly. At eleven o'clock a patient was brought in by the ambulance; the doctor was hastily summoned, and in half an hour a wee baby boy was born.

At 6:30 the following morning the ambulance again made us a call, and Patrick, our faithful driver, lifted out what appeared to be nothing but a towel; the towel was wrapped around a tiny baby girl, weighing two pounds and about half an hour old. She had been born and left on the street. We bathed her in warm oil and improvised an incubator at once, but the little morsel of humanity lived only a few hours and so ended my first twelve hours of night duty.

Citation from:
(1899). Some account of the Orange Training School for Nurses. Orange, NJ: Orange Memorial Hospital.

This "diary " must be read with the understanding that the hospital published this booklet as public relations.