Wigan hospitals say goodbye to trio of nurses with 130 years of NHS experience

It will be the end of an era for the borough’s hospitals as three nursing leaders with nearly 130 years of NHS experience look forward to their retirement.

Friday, 12th April 2019, 2:58 pm
Updated Friday, 12th April 2019, 3:04 pm
Diane Lee, Pauline Law and Jean Prescott

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) is saying goodbye to director of nursing Pauline Law, head of nursing (unscheduled care) Diane Lee and head of surgery and child health Jean Prescott.

Diane stepped down in March, while Pauline and Jean will bring their careers to an end in coming months after working in the NHS for decades.

Grandmother-of-two Pauline started training to be a nurse in 1979, spending 25 years in community nursing before moving into operational management roles in 2002.

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After completing her MBA in 2010, she moved back into a professional nurse leadership role and joined WWL as deputy director of nursing in 2012, moving to executive director in 2016.

She said: “I always wanted to be a nurse from being young. I couldn’t wait to finish my A-levels and turn 18 so I could get started.

“The biggest thrill on my first day was wearing the uniform – it felt as though I had waited all my life to get a proper nurses uniform on.”

Jean, who has two grandsons, started working in the NHS in 1973 as a pharmacy technician, before qualifying as a nurse in 1980. She has worked at WWL since 2009.

She said: “When I was working as a pharmacy technician, going onto the wards was a real eye-opener for me; as soon as I set foot on a ward I knew nursing was what I wanted to do and I loved the role from day one.

“Putting on the turquoise uniform and a nurse’s hat, together with a very stiffly starched apron and collar, was a very proud moment for me.”

Diane, who began her nurse training in 1978 and is married with two children, said: “I remember being stood in the nurses’ changing rooms and being given a big linen drawstring bag with our uniform in – a dress, an apron, a proper linen hat and a cape.

“We all practised putting our uniform on and folding our hats, we felt so important – like a proper nurse!”

Diane, who has worked at WWL since 1983, added: “I didn’t really know what career to pursue at 16 so when my sister, who was going to be a nurse, changed her mind, I thought, ‘I’ll do that’.

“Of course this was much to the dismay of my parents who thought someone who was apparently frightened of the sight of blood like I was, wasn’t really cut out to be a nurse.”

All three fondly remember the early days of their careers, but say the NHS nowadays is very different.

Diane said: “I have always been an A&E nurse and even met my husband whilst we were both working in the department.

“Back in the 80s A&E used to have ‘quiet’ times, particularly so at night, where those on shift could sit, talk, knit, watch TV; there used to be one doctor on duty who would go to bed and we would wake him if he was needed. It’s certainly not like that these days.”

Pauline said: “The patient demographics have also changed dramatically over the years, they are now much older and often so much sicker and tend to stay as an inpatient for a much shorter time.

“Procedures that once kept a patient in hospital for over a week are now dealt with as day cases – it’s just as well really, otherwise we would never be able to fit everyone in our hospitals.”

They will certainly remember their days at WWL with fondness.

Jean said; “My role at WWL has been the most challenging, however, it has been the most enjoyable and successful part of my career. My colleagues have provided constant support, professionalism and much humour along the way.

“Being a nurse and constantly having the privilege of helping patients, carers and families, as well as being in a position to develop others and seeing them flourish and grow is something I’m very proud of.”

Diane added: “My fondest memories at WWL – apart from meeting my husband – include all the wonderful patients and their families.

“Equally my amazing colleagues and the most dedicated, caring, motivated nursing team I have been privileged to lead.”

Pauline said: “I knew I would love WWL from my very first day, everyone I met was so kind and respectful.

“I’ll certainly miss the teams I work with and making the changes that will improve the patient experience.

“I remember when we brought a horse on the hospital site to say goodbye to his owner who was a

patient.

“I was deputy director of nursing at that time and gave staff permission to do it.

“Once I had agreed, I thought, ‘right, it will go really well and everyone will be happy or it will go wrong and I’ll probably be sacked’!”

Pauline continued: “I couldn’t do anything for two hours while we waited for the horse to arrive and I was so nervous. Fortunately, it went well and became a global story – my son who was working in Boston, USA at the time text me to say he’d even seen me on TV over there.”

The women have plans to travel, spend time with their grandchildren, keep fit and volunteer during their retirement.

And their words of wisdom for anyone wishing to follow in their footsteps?

“Don’t ever underestimate your abilities,” said Pauline. “You have to work extra hard to get where you want to be, but stay focussed, put the work in and keep the prize in mind.”

“Don’t hesitate,” added Jean. “Do it!

“Expect to work hard and reap good rewards but get as much experience as you can in a variety of different specialities before deciding your ultimate career goal.”

“And follow your dreams,” said Diane. “In the words of Walt Disney, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’”