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1918a jutt

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Since so many nurses had enlisted for the Red Cross, often there was no more than one nurse to fifty patients. Even though we were probationers and not given very much responsibility, and there were ward maids and orderlies to take care of many of the disagreeable details, we had a great deal of physical labor. It was a city hospital and patients had to be very sick before they were admitted. We had to change each bed every day, bathe all our patients, rub them down with alcohol, dress bed sores, give out the medicines, attend demonstrations, and generally assist in the irrigations and injections, tappings for spinal and lung fluid, and all the other treatments for patients in the medical and receiving wards. …

That was the year of the influenza epidemic, and we worked so hard that we fell unconscious into our beds at night and had to drag ourselves out of sleep in the morning. I had to take cold baths when I got up because if I got into warm water I fell asleep. Most of the nurses were keen and zealous over the work. We were all so busy we did not have time to suffer over the human misery we saw, although it was heart-breaking to see young people dying all around us of the flu. Often we had to prepare for the morgue as many as eight corpses a day.

Every morning we were expected to have our wards in order by ten o'clock, and it used to give me pleasure to see everyone cleaned and washed and neatly tucked under white counterpanes in the long rows. They were good patients because they were poor and did not expect too much. They were uncomplaining, and they accepted their suffering with stoicism. They did get good food and clean bedding. In the middle of the morning we gave everyone eggnogs, and in the male wards most of the men who were in the habit of drinking got a good stiff drink of whiskey in the eggnog. …

One got into the habit, in the hospital, of consistent, sustained effort and of disregarding fatigue, both physical and mental.

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