Thank you very much to Mrs Rose Johnson (pictured) for her reminiscences of her time spent nursing at High Royds.
I went to work at High Royds in the 1960’s and have very fond memories of my time there. I was chosen to manage the new Rehabilitation Centre which surprised many of my senior colleagues who were quite jealous and sent me to Coventry for a time, but I didn’t care. I had a good relationship with my patients and pride myself on the way they were cared for. When I left High Royds my title was Occupational Therapy Charge Nurse and Matron told me that I was the highest paid nurse in the hospital. Doctor Todd told me that I should really not leave the profession and go and work for Social Services and I regret now that I didn’t.
I remember some interesting stories. There was an occasion when I was permitted to act as escort with another male member of staff, which is unusual as escorts were usually two men. We had to deal with an incident where a patient was holding a knife to his mother’s throat at his home. This patient was a large man so it was decided that I should sit in the ambulance while the male escort a 6’ fellow, attempted to talk the patient round. Well I sat in the ambulance for hours and was getting pretty fed up so in I marched all 5’ of me, and I looked the patient straight in the eye, which is very important, and I said “ come on, come with me, we are getting out of here and we are not going back to the hospital”. That did the trick and he came with me into the ambulance like a lamb. Of course when we reached High Royds he started to act up again a bit but by that time the incident was over and nobody was hurt.
Another occasion, I was driving through Ilkley and saw a female patient who had obviously escaped, just wandering around. I stopped and spoke to her and managed to get her into my car. She said she wasn’t going back to the hospital so I said “ come home and have tea with me”. So I took the patient home for tea, called Matron and said I had the patient at my house and after tea, she agreed to let me take her back which was a good ending as there is always the risk that a patient can “turn”.
There were two incidences when I helped patients to recover when it was not expected. One was in the Rehab Unit, there were two sisters that had been patients for many years and were expected to stay for the rest of their lives. I spent a lot of time talking with one of them and she totally changed. The Doctor told me it was as if something just snapped in her brain and she was completely normal. Another patient, Dulcie, I remember spending time sitting on a log chatting to her and eventually she was discharged and she was found a job in Bradford. I saw her some time later and she brought me chocolates.
There were some sad occasions when patients I recall would get ready for the weekend visits home and would wait patiently to be collected by relatives. I would never go off duty until the last of my patients had been collected and there were times when the families did not turn up. Once I drove toBradfordfrom the hospital to ask the families what the delay was as so and so was waiting, but they didn’t want to know, so I drove all the way back to tell the disappointed patients.
Happier, times, I was entrusted to take patients for a walk in the woods, out of the locked wards and they would follow me in a trail. I got them all to pick up nice stones and we created a rockery which they really enjoyed. We also won a prize for the miniature garden we built.
Sister Wynn was responsible for my training and she was an excellent nurse. Our patients were always clean and organized with fresh ribbons. The wards were spotless and there was always ample good wholesome food and lovely warm fires. Sister Wynn would boil fresh coffee every morning in our little kitchen for all the patients. It was a shame when the system changed and they got rid of all Matrons. I remember that our matron suddenly went from a position of authority to being ignored on ward rounds. It was a mistake as Matrons always ensured high standards.
There were some unpleasant staff who were unsympathetic but they knew that I would have none of that and my patients were treated with respect. I remember once when a cruel nurse locked an old patient out in the snow because she wouldn’t eat her food. I ran all the way to Matron to report the incident and get the key. I was quite breathless telling matron, but it was well known that I would always ensure the patients well being.
I have to say that contrary to the belief of many, I worked with patients having ECT and in my experience it was a good thing. Patients would be a bit dizzy for a minute or two after but then they would forget all the awful thoughts that had been plaguing them and giving them such distress. My time at High Royds was rewarding and overall it was a good place.