Extract from a Probationer's Diary
Orange Training School for Nurses
Orange [NJ] Hospital Training School Pupils, circa 1884
At 7 am we all went over to the hospital and I was told to report to the head nurse of ward 1, Male Medical.
After breakfast I washed dishes, swept and dusted the dining room, then had my first lesson on bedmaking.... Then I swept and dusted the ward, cleaned the refrigerator, scrubbed the waste pails, basins, bath tub and sink, cleaned the bath room and ward kitchen, polished the brass and zinc, and kept up a general scouring and scrubbing until noon, when I went to the Training School for dinner, and, returning at 12:30, helped to get ready the patients' dinner, which is served at 1; carrying trays away again, fed my old men, and after washing dishes and sweeping and dusting the dining room was told to go off duty for two hours.
One hour of my off duty was spent in class, after which I returned to the hospital to serve supper and wash dishes again; at 5:40 I went to my own supper, then back to the hospital, where I helped to fix up the patients for the night. This means brushing out the beds with a whisk broom, straightening sheets, beating up pillows, and bathing everybody's back with alcohol. By this time it was 7 o'clock and hospital duties were over for the day. There is no lecture to-night.
I remained in Ward 1 for five days, and then was sent to Ward 2, Women's Medical, where my work has been very much the same as in Ward 1; a little harder, perhaps, for women are more exacting than men, I find.
I must confess.. that nursing is very different from what I expected it would be... I was so anxious to do something besides sweeping and scouring, and yesterday, when a poor old woman was brought in and Miss Junior was preparing to give her a bed bath, I heard the head nurse say, "Let the probationer do part of this - let her attend to the feet". I was quite delighted, for you know I used to bathe poor deer grandma's feet, and she always said no one could do it so well as I - my touch was so gentle; but oh dear! I shall never forget these. I am sure nothing but the dirt of ages could have formed such an impenetrable crust; and the nails! - oh my! But Miss Junior said in her matter-of-fact way; 'We shall need soap poultices here'. Just think of it! 'Soap poultices!' I used to spray poor dear grandma's with eau de Cologne. Well, Miss Junior showed me how to make the poultices, which were applied to the feet for an hour before we could make much impression on that ancient dirt or cut those fearful nails.
I don't know what is the matter with this patient, but I am trying to be very observing and find out things for myself, for knowledge so acquired is never forgotten. I am sure she has some head trouble for one thing, for I saw Miss Junior pour a lot of medicine into her hair and then tie up her head in a three cornered bandage. I notice the label on the bottle afterwards, and read 'Delphinium' so I must look that up and see what it is used for.
And do you know I have two sets of false teeth to clean twice a day! At first I thought, 'No, I cannot; I'll go home,' and that brought me to my senses, for I came here to stay, if I can, and so the teeth are cleaned as they should be. One more confession: my feet ache! ache! ache! I am sometimes tempted to go to bed with my shoes on, fearing that if taken off they cannot be made to go on again; but Miss Junior says hers were a good deal worse, and I guess I can stand it if she could.
[attributed to Dorothy Green]
(1899). Some account of the Orange Training School for Nurses, Orange, NJ: Orange Memorial Hospital.
This "diary " must be read with the understanding that the hospital published this booklet as public relations.