As the NHS turns 70 tomorrow, a Sheffield university is hosting an exhibition showcasing the service’s fascinating past.
Photos of nurses and doctors of years gone by will be shown alongside an array of grisly medical equipment including long-dead leeches and eye-watering metal catheters.
It is hoped the event – which will also feature speakers and afternoon tea – will provide the NHS staff of yesteryear an opportunity to meet their modern day counterparts.
But organisers say it is also a chance to collect stories that, unless they are harvested and stored for posterity, could all too easily be lost.
Organiser Gayle Hazelby, senior lecturer in nursing at Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Our students think some of the stories we tell them are from the Florence Nightingale era.
“We want people to come and share their memories with the NHS staff of the future. And it will be good for the students for them to see how we got where we are today as well.”
Speakers today include 85-year-old Shirley Rowe, who was a senior lecturer at the Sheffield School of Nursing and Professor Pat Cantrell, who was a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam and served as deputy chief nurse at the Department of Health.
And two retired Dronfield GPs – Jill and Tony Bethell – will bring in a beautifully preserved example of a standard doctor’s bag and kit from 1967.
Organising the event with Gayle is Karen Sneddon, senior lecturer in adult nursing at Sheffield Hallam University.
Karen – who has worked in nursing since 1975 – said the difference between what nurses used to do and what they do now was ‘enormous’.
She said: “It was quite regimented. The first thing you learned was about how to fold your hat. I remember having to redo all the beds in a ward because the openings on the pillows were the wrong way round. They made us do that rather than just turning the pillows round.
“If you were given a job that wasn’t so nice they used to say it was character building – I have got a brilliant character now.
“There is also so much technology and research now – and surgical procedures have become much more complicated and adventurous. But despite all that we really cared and we did a good job with limited resources that we had.”
One interesting idea is to get those who attend to write some of their professional experiences in nursing on a long strip of lining paper. This will then be saved so it can stand as a testament to future generations of nursing students.
Attendees have also been asked to bring in their old nursing hats, cuffs, buckles and capes so students can see first hand how much things have changed.
“It is a bit like First World War veterans,” said Karen.
“If we don’t collect these stories, the people will die and they will be lost.”
The event will be at Sheffield Hallam University’s Heart of the Campus building on Collegiate Crescent on Thursday between 12 and 4pm.