My Years As An Orthopaedic Nurse

Iris Parker Smith
Private Collection
A fund raising concert
Private Collection
Teaching a student to put traction on
Private Collection


I commenced my orthopaedic nursing training in 1963 at Harlow Wood Hospital having completed my general nursing.  I remember we were given our uniform of a cape, navy cardigan and a butterfly hat which was designed by the Duchess of Portland.  We had to wear black stockings and brown shoes.  Miss Smith was our theory tutor and Miss Clark was the practical tutor.  It was a deep and intensive course being in school for six weeks then allocated to the wards and theatre.  I remember as a student seeing the first Charnley hip replacement performed by Mr. Chapple.


Final exams and certificates

After doing our final exams we had to wait six weeks for our results, and the big day was quite special because we could invite our family along to the presentation. We received a certificate and a Harlow Wood badge and many dignitaries were there and afterwards we had a party to celebrate.



We were highly disciplined, your uniform had to be immaculate, no hair out of place, shoes well cleaned.  Woe betide you when Miss Turk, the assistant matron, did her ward round especially if she caught you having a cup of tea.  Miss Custerton was the matron.  We had a salary of £18 per month and students living in the nurses home had to pay so much for that accommodation.   In the dining room only the nursing staff were allowed in, no ancillary staff and the tables were allocated to the different grades, the students sat at the last table.  When the matron came into the dining room we all had to stand up even if we were in the middle of eating our dinner.  If she decided to have a chat we still could not sit until she sat down, so very often we ate a cold meal.  This meal was classed as part of our wages.


Social life

We had quite a social life. There was a Matron’s Ball at Christmas for nursing staff only, but you were allowed to invite one person, it was a wonderful occasion.  At Christmas the consultants came down to the wards to carve the turkeys.  All trained staff had to be on duty, you were not allowed to be off Christmas or Boxing Day.  The students and doctors always put on our own pantomime, and they were very successful.  We celebrated bonfire nights and I remember we organised a tramp supper, everyone dressing up as tramps with a prize for the best performance. We had a good Social Club.  We had a hockey team, cycles were bought and there was tennis, football, pool etc.  Parties and dances were organised.  I remember one New Year’s eve Hogmanay we had Scottish doctors who piped the haggis in.  Church services were held every Sunday.


Alan Malkin House

We had a building which was called the Alan Malkin House which was named after an orthopaedic consultant where nurses could entertain family and friends.  We could cook a meal and we had many parties in there.  It was immaculately kept, and I was sad to see it eventually pulled down.


Ward 9

I worked on the male Ward 9 for many years and helped to train new students in practical and theory.  They always showed their appreciation, and still do as they have gone further up the ladder in the nursing field.


My Final Years

My last seven years were spent in the theatre where brilliant and often pioneering work was performed.   I enjoyed my days at Harlow Wood and was very sorry to see it go.

Iris Parker Smith, SEN., OND., OLM

Comments about this page

  • I trained at Harlow Wood from 1961 to 1970. I remember on our first day having to learn how to make our butterfly caps. I loved the place. I lived in the nurses home and nurses used to use my window to come through when they had been out after curfew as it was on the ground floor. Our boyfriends also used to use the fire escapes to get in and out.
    I remember we all had to work on Christmas Day and the surgeons would come and carve the turkey. When any of the nurses left they would be thrown in the bath. It was a great place to start my nursing and when I went back to visit the site not long ago I cried as it had been turned into houses, and saw an old tree which reminded me that it was still there and yet the hospital wasn’t.

    By Hazel Hewit (23/03/2022)
  • I would like to know if any one remembers my father Patrick Brick (I share his name), who was in Harlow Wood in 1976/77. He was having his hip/s replaced after a fall, he sadly died due to complications while in surgery I believe.
    I remember him making a dinner tray, but sadly this has now been lost. Any info would be really appreciated.
    Patrick Brick Jnr

    By Patrick (01/04/2020)
  • 1967-1969, I would love anyone who was on Ward 3 Children’s Ward, (11-15 year old) to get in touch with me. I particularly remember a young girl call Jane? McNamara. I believe she was from Grimsby and I think she was visited by Harvey Smith, a famous jockey who gave her a chestnut coloured horse. The horse was actually brought onto the ward, where was Health and Safety – did it do us any harm??

    By Betty Aitken (nee Taylor) (17/11/2019)
  • I would like to contact an old friend who worked at Harlow Wood in the late ’70s.
    Madeleine Evans was a Physio there circa 1975-1979.
    Her best friend was Helen V Clarke. Does anyone have any information? I would be very grateful.

    By Paul Taylor (10/06/2019)
  • I trained from 1972 to 1974. I have lost touch over the years. I was Alison Wain (now Alison Turton) and did my Orthopaedic Nursing Certificate.
    I would love to catch up with some of you who trained around that time.

    By Alison Turton (30/04/2019)
  • Hi I worked on Ward 9, as a Student Nurse, Liz Rosner. I remember many of the names relating to 1968.
    We need a reunion.

    By Liz Fletcher (05/11/2018)
  • I was also on Ward 9 at this time and next to Keith Arnold. I went to school at Sconce Hills, was I in the same class as you Richard? I think you lived Muskham way.  I knew Arthur, the ward orderly as Simmy?      Sister Coupe was an absolute professional and gorgeous with it. HAPPY DAYS

    By Alan Ward (14/01/2018)
  • I too was a patient in 1968 as a result of a motorcycle accident in Newark. I suffered a broken arm and broken head of femur. I recall with fondness the nursing staff on ward 9 which at that time was led by sister Coup (not sure on the spelling). I also remember you Iris and the nurse in the photo with traction. Cannot be sure but that could be me in the bed.  I also remember nurse Betterage and Colin and Arthur the orderlies. I was also a patient at the same time as Bill Margerison and in the next bed to another Newarker, Keith Arnold also a motorcycle statistic.

    By Richard Baker (18/01/2017)
  • Hi 

    I was an inpatient from Sept 77 having being  born with a left dislocated hip. I was under the care of Professor Waugh and his team. My name then was Teresa Manning. My Dad was called Paul and my Mum Jennifer or Jenny. I remember the lovely care I had off the nurses whist I was in there. I had a particular favourite nurse. All I remember is she had blue eyes and dark hair. 

    I was left in hospital every night by my Mum and Dad. No mean feat when I was only 13 months old. (not like nowdays). My Mum used to come up first thing in a morning and spend the day with me for the long periods I was in. My Dad used to come up after work every day and they stayed with me until bed time. My Mum and Dad used to get me to sleep by reading me story’s. Remember that like it was yesterday. They never missed a day coming to see me.

    If any of the nurses whom worked on the children’s wards read this then thankyou.

    By Teresa Wiggins (19/10/2016)
  • I was a Staff Nurse on Ward 3 from 1965 until 1968 and I do remember Iris Parker Smith. I attended a Nurses Reunion with my new born son in 1969. Happy memories!

    By Gill Beswick (13/10/2015)
  • A member of my family Mary Grace Smith was an auxiliary nurse at Harlow Wood Orthopaedic Hospital, she left in 1970 when she was around 35 years old. I wonder if anyone knew her?

    By samantha helm (10/10/2012)
  • William, 44 years ago is a long time to recollect, but it was lovely to hear from you. My husband and I enjoy looking at the Harlow Wood site and it brings back many memories of our time there as my husband worked there as well. I am still in touch with some of the previous staff. Best wishes Iris

    By Iris Smith (nee Parker) (10/05/2012)
  • In 1968 I lived in Newark. I was admitted to Harlow Wood Ward 9 with a compound fracture to the tib and fib after motor cycle accident. I was in the next bed to Ronald Montigue and I was in hospitial for nearly a year. I was 16 years old at  the time and hardly had any visitors. I would like to thank staff nurse Parker for taking me under her wing and looking after me and buying me a pair off slippers and doing my dirty washing for me. Hope you remember me, once again thank you for everything. William

    By william margerison (05/05/2012)
  • I started at Harlow wood in september 1950, Miss Pricket was then the Matron and Miss Custerson was the assistant matron,the new remedial pool had just been opened this was a place of many happy memories as I also married one of the patients, winter nightduty was the time when at 2am you collected all the hot water bottles to refill them with water from the sterilizer Mr Jackson and Sir Alan Malkin were our chief surgeons I still have the group photo taken when we qualified

    By grace carter Nee Chegwin (19/05/2011)
  • I am looking for Nurse Gillespie who worked on the childrens ward in 70’s. Has anybody got any info? I truly would appreciate it.

    By Michael Hughes (24/02/2010)
  • I also trained at Harlow Wood in 1969/70 and was one of three male nurses at the Hospital. Happy Days!

    By Steven J Logan (23/01/2010)

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