Letter from an old timer….

Letter from an Old Timer

On Thursday 24th November I will be celebrating 30 years of continuous reckonable service in the NHS. I will be here in Cumbria and will no doubt have a range of emotions feeling thankful for everything the NHS has given me. I have, in my time, been a patient and a carer but most of all I have been a staff member of the best team in the world.

Thinking back I have always been around the NHS. I recall vivid memories of being a toddler visiting my Mother, a switchboard operator, in a newish general hospital in the centre of our community. In fact my most sensory memory was the sweet, unique smell of the sun drenched connecting corridor between the canteen and the maternity unit escorted hand in hand by the Chief Nurse at the time. Why she was taking me on a tour I don’t remember, but I remember the kindness and the joy of feeling special. Like it was a magical place.

Years later when the hospital had grown beyond all recognition I was back and it was still delivering magic.  I was General Manager and my sense of pride was overwhelming attached with the same joy, warmth and belonging.

The NHS I remember and think of most fondly is a community of people striving for the same thing with the same underpinning strong held values. Through our work we laugh and cry in the company of people who completely understand and with whom we form strong lifelong bonds.

 My early years were not without challenge. As a young girl at sixth form I was lucky to secure a role as a domestic in the same hospital in my spare time. It was a baptism of fire catapulted into a very grown up world Psychiatry and Geriatric medicine. I was not always welcomed and valued by all staff, but in the main it was a hugely rewarding role. Blooming hard work but the direct feedback from patients, families and most staff still is vivid in my mind. I remember the divisions in the staff restaurant where Consultant medical Staff and Senior Manager dined in special partitioned sections with starched table linen. Luckily those divisions were soon seen as intolerable and things have slowly changed.

The years as an auxiliary nurse were a joy. For those of you who have never “wee’d and weighed”, been inspected while being developed and supported by Sister, assisted in some fairly brutal interventions, and been part of a team providing support to people in need, it is fair to say that you have missed out. All of these experiences were a foundation for learning from those around me throughout the following 30 years.

My career path moved to support services, back into direct patient care, onto management and now in a role where I am privileged to support staff across many diverse and exceptional services. The career path isn’t really that important. The important thing to me has been the people. Of course after 30 years there have been thousands of interactions with people. I have learnt from them all, enjoyed the vast majority of them and been lucky to experience every one of them. I have worked directly with hundreds of people. Every one of them has affected me and influenced me. People have brought me happiness and given me the drive, energy and determination to carry on when things are tough. I never fail to be amazed by the effort, strength and motivation of people working in the NHS. I never fail to be astounded by my experiences with patients where their spirit, warmth, gratitude and drive despite their circumstances is humbling.

The timeline from November 1986 feels like it has gone in a blink. I completed a starter form on that first day, I closed my eyes for just a minute and now I am here 30 years later. At the same time though I remember people in slow motion. Their faces, their support, their encouragement, our friendships, our camaraderie and their smiles. I will never be able to express to each and every one of them just how much they have given me. How much each and every one of them has meant to me. Just how much I miss those that we have lost.

So instead I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to you. All of you that I work with day in and day out. All of you who work in health and give your lives to working with people when they are at their most vulnerable. You are all special and all of you will be carried in my heart forever.