Miss Ethel McNevin assumed the matronship in March 1937. In July she established a Nurses Preliminary Training School (known hereafter as the P.T.S.).
Probationers would not start directly in the wards, instead they would spend two months in the P.T.S. learning the rudiments of medical and nursing theory and clinical skills. It was a short, intensive course in nursing ideology, ward etiquette, anatomy and physiology, hygiene, first aid, bed making, sponging, taking temperatures, efficient cleaning methods and much more. The new probationers practised on a life size dummy (Mrs Bedford,) not live patients, although demonstrations in the wards, weekly tests and a final examination preceded entry to the wards. The introduction of the eight weeks course meant that intakes of trainees occurred every two months instead of twice yearly or at random.
The first Tutor Sister was Miss Muriel Doherty, an outstanding graduate from Prince Alfred Hospital who had qualified as a Tutor Sister in London. It was her task to set up the school using as a model the P.T.S. which she had established at Prince Alfred. She was also required to recruit and train Tutor Sisters from the hospital staff. Miss Doherty laid excellent foundations and the new school in the old infectious Ward 16 quickly became an integral part of the training course.
It was a small beginning, most of the teaching would still be done in the wards by sisters, staff nurses and senior nurses as had been the traditional practice. This system had its faults, not all sisters were good communicators which tended to make the quality and quantity of the tuition received a matter of chance. Doctors’ and Matron’s lectures, demonstrations and examinations helped create a uniformity in learning that was lacking in the instruction received in the wards.