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Nurses remember: St Bartholomew’s Hospital

St Barts nurse Joan Johnson

In 2008 the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education’ project team worked with the League of St Bartholomew’s Nurses to conduct an oral history project to capture the memories and experiences of nurses who trained and worked at St Bartholomew’s Hospital during the period 1940–1980.

Barts is Britain’s oldest hospital (founded 1123) and its school of medicine and dentistry was the country’s first. The aim of the project was to ensure that a significant part of Barts’ nursing history was recorded before being ‘lost in the mists of time’.

Over forty interviews were conducted with nurses from each decade, covering a range of aspects of the nursing experience at ‘Barts’. The interviews explored seventeen themes, and included memories of Barts during the Second World War, the training school and training process, ward names and ward routine, matrons and sisters, uniforms, discipline and accommodation. Some memories focused on patients, some on the medical staff and other colleagues, and others on the social life or the Barts nurses’ language.

‘Barts’ Nurses Remember’

St Barts nurse Betty Lavack reading her letter

From the research, an eighty-minute DVD was created, ‘Barts’ Nurses Remember’, which is now sold by the League of St Bartholomew’s Nurse to raise funds for their organisation. The DVD contains audio extracts, accompanied by a slideshow of photographs and images relating to each extract. It includes 14 different themed scenes, one of which features a St Bartholomew’s nurse reading a letter she wrote to her family on 30th December 1940, recalling her experience of the dreadful previous night of bombing during the blitz.