Tuesday, 8 May 2018

I have worked at The Christie as a nurse for more than 34 years and have seen many changes along the way - Gillian Goodwin

Gillian Goodwin - quality improvement nurse

In the lead up to International Nurses Day this Saturday, Gillian talks about her nursing career at The Christie over four decades. Each day this week Gillian will share her experiences by each decade.

I have worked at The Christie as a nurse for more than 34 years and have seen many changes along the way; not just the many patients and colleagues who have come and gone, but the changing fabric of the buildings and the ever advancing treatment technologies and nursing practices. What has not changed, however, is the Christie ethos of always putting patients at the centre of everything we do. I witnessed this myself as a Christie patient back in 1982 and realised that The Christie was where I wanted to launch my nursing career. So in September 1983 I arrived at the Christie as a newly qualified staff nurse and have been here ever since!

The 1980s

So what was The Christie like back in 1983? The hospital was managed by the local (South Manchester) health authority along with Withington and Wythenshawe hospitals and certainly did not enjoy the financial freedoms we have today.
This was eight years before the advent of NHS trusts. There were a lot more inpatient beds back then and there was just a fraction of the ambulatory activity we see today. The wards in the older part of the building – 1, 2 (now OAU), 3, 4 and 5 (now endocrine unit) were all long ‘Nightingale’ style wards with beds running along each side of the ward. The bed spaces still bore the wooden and brass plaques on the wall in recognition of the group or individuals that funded the first bed in the particular space in pre-NHS days. Ward 4 bore a plaque at the ward entrance to commemorate the ward being opened by the Duchess of York (later to become The Queen Mother), all sadly lost in subsequent refurbishments.
Every ward had a cupboard somewhere for storing the nurses’ paper hats which invariably tumbled out every time the cupboard door was opened!

Back in 1983, the ‘nursing process’ (holistic model of nursing care) was just six years old and was the nursing model used only on the Christie wards that had students. Other wards still operated a task orientated style of nursing which seemed archaic to my novice eyes. I thought ‘back rounds’ (backs and bottoms washed, rubbed, powdered one after the other) were a thing from the distant past

Much of the trust activity in 1983 centred on radiotherapy and surgery, with chemotherapy a much smaller service in its relative infancy. While the risks associated with radiation were well known, and we all had the inverse square law (distance) and time drilled into us, the same cannot be said for chemotherapy where personal protective equipment was unheard of!

Advances in cancer therapies have, in subsequent decades, seen the demise of some of the treatments offered to patients in the 1980s. Caesium needles (inserted into either tongue or rectum) and cobalt moulds (worn externally) have long gone and patients having abdominal CT scan no longer have the indignity of a warm water enema prep. Better anti-sickness medications have replaced the use of sedatives to enable patients to cope with chemotherapy regimens, allowing them to eat and drink properly. Our young men with teratoma had a difficult time back then.

In 1983 the hospital had one specialist nurse for delivering chemotherapy on ward 12 – that was it! Even the stoma nurses who visited wards 9 and 10 on certain days were based in another hospital. Research nurses were unheard of.

During the early 1980s most nurses lived in dread of ‘The Change List’. Staff nurses were routinely moved around the wards each month on a completely ad hoc basis and each month I would scan the list anxiously to check that my name wasn’t on it. Alas after six months working at The Christie my name appeared. During the 1980s I gained nursing experience in a number of areas – Ward 4, Ward 1, Ward 3, Ward 5&6, Ward 10 and Radiotherapy Theatre. It was to Ward 4 however that I returned as senior sister in 1988.
Movement from one ward to another would, in those days, often be accompanied by a dunking in the ward bath on your last day on duty. I had the dubious pleasure of this ritual when I left Ward 10 to take up my promotion on Ward 4!
Tomorrow - the 1990s

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