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Nurse's career spans five decades in the NHS

(9 January 2013)

It’s a remarkable achievement to have worked 50 years, so when Nancy Bennett, Staff Nurse on Ward 25 at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, decided to retire in December (12 December) she was given a special send-off by her work colleagues.

Scots-born Nancy first started out on her nursing career in 1962 as a pupil nurse at Strathclyde Hospital.  She then moved south to Doncaster in 1978 as an enrolled nurse in Doncaster Royal Infirmary’s Outpatients Chest Clinic, before moving on to Dermatology outpatients.  She completed her nurse conversion training in 1994 and also trained in retinal screening, later working as a retinal screening nurse before moving to Ward 25 until her retirement.

Reflecting on her experiences since first embarking on her nursing career, Nancy said: “Things have certainly changed since my days as a pupil nurse. Like many hospitals at that time, Strathclyde was an infectious disease hospital.  We had long, open Nightingale-style wards called pavilions which had a kitchen in the middle.  I remember heating up the plates in water and serving the food for the patients.  We used to do all the dusting on the ward and everything had to be in line for the Matron’s inspection – it was very strict and regimental.  We even sterilised the glass syringes and metal needles on the ward by boiling them up in water; nowadays, they are delivered to the ward in boxes.

“In those days, hospital nurses went out in the ambulance to pick up patients from their homes.  I will never forget having to help the driver carry the stretcher and being terrified of dropping it.  

“It was a lot stricter and everyone was referred to by their surnames.  In the dining room there were separate tables for different grades of nurses.  Student nurses were the lowest and we had to remain standing until the sisters were seated.  Now everyone uses each other’s first names and we all sit together.

“At DRI I worked nights on Ward 25 and back in the 70s we only had one trained nurse and an auxiliary covering both Wards 24 and 25.  Even though there were just two of us on nights looking after more patients, we seemed to have more time as the patients back then had different care needs.  

“The patients in those days were much younger. The patients we care for nowadays have more complex care needs because they are more elderly and dependent.  This requires a different type of nursing, which is more personalised and focused on each patient’s individual needs.

“We have daily cleaning schedules to combat infections making sure everything gets cleaned.  Anything on the ward that’s for nursing care – we clean it!  In the 1960s and 70s consultants were treated like gods.  We still have great respect for them today, but now we are allowed to give them a hug every now and again.”

Nancy is now enjoying the delights of retirement and spending more time with her grandchildren; reading and helping her husband John with the gardening.  She’s even thinking of taking up piano playing again – in her youth, she had wanted to become a concert pianist but the call of nursing was too strong to resist.  Now she will be able to pursue this once again.

Nancy Bennett photo Nancy Bennett

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