Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Slipper Bed Pan

In the past, bedpans were made from pewter, ceramics, metal and more recently cardboard. George Washington, who died in 1799, used one made from pewter in his later years.



When I was a student nurse at Tauranga Hospital in 1963, I was browsing in a second hand goods shop on Cameron Road, and noticed an old porcelain slipper bed pan. The instructions on the back wall of the pan were:
THE NEW
SLIPPER BED PAN
The Slipper should be passed under
the Patient in front between the legs.
If a flannel cap is made for the
blade fastened by strings under
the handle considerable comfort
will be afforded.
An auction was in progress in the shop, and the lady next to me (who I did not know) shouted to the auctioneer, that I wanted the pan. He auctioned it next. Despite not believing I had bid, the slipper bedpan became mine. It cost two shillings and sixpence. Rather than be seen carrying an old bedpan along Cameron Road to the Nurses’ Home, I asked for it to be wrapped.


Later I discovered slipper bedpans were common in the 1920s and 30s. They were most useful for patients who found it difficult to move. Rather than being called a slipper pan, it was sometimes referred to as a fracture pan.

When I tried to give the pan away, no-one wanted it. It became a flower vase in my room in the Nurses’ Home, and it overflowed with blooms. A friend thought he purchased one bunch of flowers, and discovered he’d bought ten. At the Nurses’ Dance, the band played ‘Pennies From Heaven,’ while the pan was passed around for donations. £2.10/- was collected for the Student Nurses Association.


But the pan met an untimely end. Recorded with an article ‘Pan Antics’ in Tauranga Hospital’s magazine Suture Line 1963-64, is the death notice:
BEDPAN-SLIPPER – On October 31st 1963, at 2.10 pm. (By accident). Beloved pal of Pan Anne, and famed member of the Nursing Organisation. Funeral service will be held tomorrow, 10 am in Room 107. Procession then leaving for the Rubbish Bin, Ground Floor, Wing 3. (Clean rubbish only by request, or donation to the Student Nurses’ Association). TILL DEATH DO US PART.

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