'I had a wonderful life nursing'

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'I had a wonderful life nursing'


Maisie McNailly describes her happy and fulfiling life as a nurse.


Maisie McNailly


Trinity College Dublin




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My first day as a student nurse. I get up early after 7 a.m. Other girls are up and dressed. I get my blue and white check frock, collar and hat on. We walk to the dining room in twos, have a cup of tea and are then each taken to a ward. We observe and help with the breakfasts. A junior nurse takes me and shows me her duties which I will do later. We go to breakfast at 9.30 a.m. and then report to School of Nursing at 10 a.m. We will report here for the next 3 months. We meet Miss Rodgers, Senior Tutor, who teaches mainly anatomy and physiology. She gives us a talk on nursing ethics and etiquette, how to address sisters, doctors, surgeons. Miss McBride introduces herself. She will lecture us on medicine, nutrition, hygiene and care of patients. Miss Pinkerton will teach us practical care, bed making, bed bathing and other duties for the comfort of the patient, assisted by two staff nurses. We have so many lectures. Despite having text books, we will need to make notes. After the introduction, Miss Pinkerton takes us into the practical room with eight beds and equipment. She and the staff nurses teach us to make beds. It takes sometime before we are near satisfactory. We work in twos so we continue to learn about all the illnesses, diseases and conditions of our patients. My first ward was a male medical ward. The junior introduced me to my work collecting specimen mugs and cleaning them (I felt sick!), washing urinals and bed pans, used plenty of carbolic, cleaned patients' lockers, removed papers etc. The nurse was delighted handing the work over to me! This system worked on the basis of the nurse senior to you teaching you the work you will do, while the nurse senior to her does the same. During this time I made many good friends: With us sleeping in the one dorm we had good fun and chat at night. We had time at night to socialise. Some girls were from the country like myself. We seemed to have more in common though we all mixed very well. We had discussions about our lectures. Some of the girls have been my friends for life. We continued to have one or two lectures during the week, when we were working on the wards. Miss McBride was very helpful, interested to know any special conditions of our patients on our ward, she would talk to the sister of the ward and come back to us and explain the condition. When it came to exam times, she would have taken a class later for everyone who wished to come. If we had any questions, she would explain and answer any questions. After our three months we were moved to single rooms. Though they were small, it was nice to have your own room instead of the long dorm. We had a half day, a full day and a morning pass each week, so I always went home. As time went on, my mother and father became frailer and I was able to give them some support. I continue training. We do three months in each ward and night duty three months at least every year, six weeks in block (back in the classroom) when we have lectures from doctors (medicine and surgery), and further lectures and practical studies from tutors. At the end of one year we do the first big exam which decides will we continue training. If you fail you have to leave. After a further two years study and work on the ward I passed my finals on 2nd November 1953. I then undertook Midwife training, qualifying as a midwife in October, 1955. I then was appointed staff nurse until 1960 where I studied for Ward Sister. I was appointed as Ward Sister in a surgical ward. After a short break, I was appointed in a geriatric medical unit, continued in the post until 1977 when promoted to Nursing Officer, a post I held until retirement 31st May 1987. I have so many memories it is impossible to record them all. I had a wonderful life nursing.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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