In 1982, I was a student nurse working in an old Victorian hospital built in 1887. It was built in the usual Victorian manner, that within the same quadrangle they built the infirmary, now known as Dudley Rd Hosptial, the Lunatic asylum, which became All Saints Psychiatric Hospital, Sommerville Workhouse, which be came Dudley Rd Geriatric Hospital, and finally Winston Green Prison. All of the buildings were in the same style and it was hard to say which was which.
The psychiatric hospital was probably the the one building that looked as if it was transplanted from a movie set, all it needed was a few bats flying around the main turret and you would think that it was Dracula's castle.
I was a 2nd year student nurse and doing my 1st set of night duty. I was a assigned to D16 the male Urology ward. Working with me was a staff nurse and a auxiliary nurse. There are 3 stories to the hospital and the wards ran off one long corridor. Of a night, a sister was assigned to cover a floor of 10 wards. The wards were what is now known as "Florence wards", in that there were no bays or single rooms, but the beds ran down the length of the wards. The only privacy the patients had was a curtain that could be pulled around the bed.
At the end of the ward there was a day room, toilets and bathrooms to the right, and the sluice room and fire escape (which on all the wards were usually bolted, chained and padlocked) to the left. D16 is situated and the 2nd floor, about half way down the corridor.
On my 4th or 5th shift, the staff nurse and I (the auxiliary nurse was usually asleep in a chair) had settled the patients down (the night sedation had been given out and the lights turned off). We had set a couple of chairs up in the middle of the ward, and were talking quietly by the soft glow of the treatment room light that was left on along with the one in the day staff office. Everything was quiet except for snoring from both the auxiliary and the patients.
Before long the staff nurse starts telling the usual spooky stories to initiate me to night shift. After scaring ourselves stupid we stopped and did the admin and other duties. Now there is always supposed to be 2 staff members on the ward all times. The Auxiliary was on her break, which she took on another ward with a friend, so the staff nurse and myself were left. However, we received a call from another ward that there was a cardiac arrest on that ward and they needed assistance as there were only 2nd and 3rd year nurses in charge. So the staff nurse left me alone with the assurance that the night sister would be with me soon. Plus the auxiliary would be back soon anyway.
So here I was, alone (if you can be alone with 33 snoring patients) and petrified; not of ghosts but the responsibility, of all these people. It was with some relief that I heard the door open and the night sister come in. She looked straight at me and continued to walk past me. I took this to mean that she wanted to do a ward round, in where I follow her around and give a report on each patient. However she continued to walk, not stopping at any of the beds. I carried on tagging behind her, unsure of what to do. She then turned left into the sliuce room and I followed. She stopped dead. I stopped and hovered a little behind her. Without turning around she said in a very harsh tone "Are you following me?!", I was somewhat taken aback and stammered out a response that I was not and slunk away back to the main ward to wait her wrath as she was obviously upset with me.
I stood just outside the office which is located at the opposite end of the ward to the sliuce room, and sulked. I was nineteen years old and while terrified of authority I thought she was a rude bitch, and who did she think she was to talk to me that way?. I didn't do anything wrong to warrent that kind of behaviour.
While I was nursing my resentments,the door opened and I saw that the staff nurse had returned, with another nurse... the Night Sister!
I proceeded to tell them that a night sister was here and was in the sliuce room. They both looked puzzled as they had just left the other 2 sisters. We all walked down to the sliuce room only to find it empty. The fire escape still locked, bolted, chained and padlocked.
Now I know that she did not leave the ward as she would have had to walk past me to get out as there is only one way in and out.