I trained in the 1970s. It was a time when nursing, and medicine in general, was about to alter in a way we could never have anticipated. Many of the nursing sisters who ran our wards had trained in the 1950s, and they resisted change with every fiber of their being, but the fact was nursing was about to undergo a period of dramatic change. Not just the care of patients, but the environment in which we nursed them. The Florence Nightingale wards were about to be demolished and we didn’t have a clue what we were in for. Yes, there was Casualty on the BBC, but there was no NHS Direct and no internet to inform us of what life in a hospital was like. Everyone was so much more ignorant as to what ailed them, what happened in a hospital and what they could expect from any treatments they were given.
The very special environment on the wards in which I worked as a student nurse bonded nurses in friendships that would last for life. We shared experiences that were unique, which others could not possibly even begin to imagine.
My real friendships from this time formed the basis of the friendships amongst my nurses in The Angels of Lovely Lane. Like all nurses across the country, my girls arrive for their PTS training at Lovely Lane on a Sunday night. It’s cold and foggy – as it had been when I began my training. The fear of what the following day would hold, stepping in through the hospital gates together on their first day, makes them all equal and equally scared.
Nursing was a great leveller. When a patient came in through the door of accident and emergency it didn’t matter if he was a lord or a tramp, he would be treated with the same care and consideration. It is the same with my girls. The chances of Pammy Tanner, from the Liverpool Dock Road, and Victoria Baker, the daughter of a lord, ever meeting would have been highly unlikely. But as they both arrived for training at Lovely Lane, they are equals within the hospital gates.
As time progresses, my nurses compensate for each other’s flaws. Pammy is the headstrong and scatty one, and I have to admit it wasn’t until I had finished the book I realized I had very much drawn from my own character. As was normal, when Pammy finds herself in hot water, the others rally around. Beth, the daughter of an army captain, is the odd one out to begin with, but as the books move on, her character will grow – if the loud Pammy allows her to!
Victoria is the sensible one, but she also has a more risqué side that may have something to do with the tragic domestic circumstances which precede her arrival. Dana is from the west coast of Ireland and has escaped a fate worse than death by securing her place at St Angelus.
My girls could not be more different and that is based on the reality of ward life. The first time I encountered someone who didn’t speak with a Liverpool accent was in Bewsey Road nurses home. When everyone calls you an Angel, when you have held someone’s hand as they die, when you have helped to pull someone back from the brink of death, the only people you had to share that with are the nurses you live with back. It is little wonder that the bonds of friendship between nurses are strong and last a lifetime.