A memoir by her husband Joe

A Nurse

Back: first on right.  Back: first on right  On the right in ‘Prem Unit’ 
‘Off duty’ listening to the Royal Wedding Nov. 1947 

Presentation of Awards by Dame Katherine Watt, DBE;  
iss Gibson (Matron); and Dr Hurrell (Medical Superintendent). 
Staff Nurse Mabel Smith, SRN, next to Dr Hurrel. 

It was a wrench to be away from home as nurses – Sisters, Staff Nurses and probationary nurses – were required to reside in the Nurses’ Home, but when she could her visits home were made at week-ends. However, her first six weeks were spent on preliminary training and therafter was introduced into the hospital wards where she coped with bedpans and other menial tasks in caring for the patients. The Newcastle General was then under the management of a Medical Superintendent and a Matron with each Ward with its own Ward Sister who by tradition managed the same Ward with a constant dedication. The strict regimes that were followed were founded on the principles of Florence Nightingale and gave nursing its high sense of vocation and professionalism.Although fortunate in having an individual room in the Nurses’ Home it did not have heating facilities, except in the corridors. She was initially paid £2.00 per month and from this had to buy whatever textbooks she required. However, the uniform was supplied but had to have a watch with a second-hand, a fountain pen and a pair of scissors. Meals in the diningroom were strictly formal, everyone standing for Grace at the beginning and end of the meal.After preliminary training, she progressively moved to various wards to gain experience in the nursing of the Ward’s particular specialisation and whilst doing this demanding work had to keep up studies and sit regular examinations. Part of the training involved duties in the operating theatre as well as undertaking long periods of night duty and even then tuition classes had to be attended during off-hours. She was third in her final year, gaining the Heath prize, and qualified as a State Registered Nurse (SRN).

Completing a year as a Staff Nurse at the Newcastle General Hospital, was then accepted for a year’s training as a Midwife at the Royal Simpson Maternity Pavilion in Edinburgh. In 1949 she gained her second qualification and was now a registered certified midwife by the Scottish Cental Midwives Board (SCM) and returned to the Newcastle General to practise midwifery