27 AUGUST 1948, Page 16


Sta,—In The Spectator of August 20th you state, correctly, that a nurse's salary of £70, £80, £90 " seems meagre, but is accompanied by free board," etc., etc. Somehow this conjures up, however unintentionally, a mental picture of the nurse receiving all this for nothing. What would happen if nurses were paid for their work and in their turn paid board and tuition? Take a hypothetical case. The average nurse works a ninety-six-hour fortnight for eight months of the year, has a month's holiday, and spends the remaining three months of the year on night duty. While on night duty she usually works 101 hours out of a possible 111 and has four nights off a month. Obviously these figures vary slightly from hospital to hospital. We pay our local charwomen 2s. 6d. per hour. (Again I agree this is not a universal figure.) At this rate and with no payment for holidays the nurse would earn approximately £310 per annum ; this figure, of course, does not allow for overtime or extra pay for night-work.

Assuming that the value of one's board and lodging and uniform is approximately £140 per annum, this still leaves £170 per annum. As a sister with three years' experience, I was earning £170 per annum. Of what value to me is my S.R.N. if it takes me all those years after my training to earn the same rate as an unskilled worker? Of course I can earn more in other branches of nursing, but it is in hospitals that nurses are needed. I think that few nurses would grumble at the poor pay received during training if they were assured of better pay when trained. They are, as you point out, receiving tuition and a well-balanced practical training. . On the other hand, it is unfair to say, as so many do, " You are the only people that are paid while you learn," and forget that we