Thursday, 22 October 2015

A Red Cross Nurse

From Woman’s Own, October 22nd 1915.

The Diary of a Red Cross Nurse

A sprightly series of articles by Emily B. Forster, which gives insight into and real information about the duties of a nurse in wartime. 

DEAREST FLO,—Well, here I am at last.  The dream of my life has come true.  I am a Red Cross nurse, in a ward full of wounded soldiers.  I know you are all eagerly waiting for a letter from me to tell you my first experiences as a nurse.
I was quite afraid Sister would hear my heart beating, I was so nervous when she took me into a ward filled with "heroes," saying "This is your ward."
Most of the men were in bed; only three were up.  All eyes turned upon me at once, and I heard a whisper, "A new pro."  Just at that moment Sister, hearing a low moan proceeding from a bed at the end of the ward, left me and disappeared behind the screen that was round the bed (a bad case).  I was left standing alone just inside the door.
Ah, I did feel so shy and nervous!  I felt so "new"; quite a "pro"  [probationer]. I was wondering what to do, when a feeble voice near me said, "So you have come to look after us poor chaps for a bit, miss, and it's uncommon good of you.  My missus says they may talk about angels at Mons, but there ain't no doubt about the angels in the hospitals.  I knows as how what she says is true—this is my second go invalided home."
Before I tell you any more about the patients I must remember my promise to the girls to let them hear all about my uniform.
Can you picture me—neat hair, stiff collar, full skirt—everything just unlike what your frivolous little Betty wears at home, from the low-heeled shoe, tipped with rubber, to the demure cap that will not keep straight on my rebellious hair?
I mean to have my photograph taken soon, to send to you; but Sister says I look so stiff at present, so I am waiting until I feel more comfy in my standup collar.  My frock is just a plain cotton —very plain—and it is what the committee call a "sensible width."  I feel as if I were walking about in volumes of skirts.
A large white apron almost covers the dress, and when shall I ever get used to it—the linen collar?
But the crowning point of all is the Red Cross.
I know you all want to hear about everything I do.  Well, I am just a "pro," and that means, to give a full explanation, that I am a probationer, here to learn.  And as I want to get on, I keep my eyes and ears open to learn all I can. At first it seemed so hopeless—everybody seemed to know everything except me, and I knew nothing, and as the ward was short-handed (one nurse was ill), no one seemed to have time to pay much attention to me.  There was certain work portioned out; only as I have never swept or dusted or done any real work in my life, it wanted a lot of courage to start.
Of course, I made a wrong start, but my "angel friend," as I always call him in my own mind, came to my rescue: "You’re sweeping against the grain; go the way of the board, nurse."  Now, that was a tip worth knowing.
I got into dire disgrace over my dusting.  I had often noticed the maids shake their dusters, so when I finished my dusting I shook mine.  Oh dear, Sister was so angry!  She said I should be shaking carpets over the wounded next.  Somehow I think she feels it a duty to be severe to me, because I know nothing; but then, as I tell her, that is why I have come, for her to teach me.  She said you do not want a room full of sick men to learn to dust, but how else could I learn?  Why, if I took to dusting at home, all the servants would give notice, Sister said "No wonder!"
Well, I must get back to the ward now; it is time to give the medicines.
 —Your loving BETTY.

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