NHS70: Then and now - nurse reflects on 50 years in the health service

Caroline Britton in 1968. Photo: NSFT

Caroline Britton in 1968. Photo: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

As the NHS marks its 70th anniversary, a King's Lynn woman has just celebrated a health service milestone of her own – 50 years as a nurse.

Caroline Britton in 2018. Photo: NSFT

Caroline Britton in 2018. Photo: NSFT - Credit: NSFT

Caroline Britton, who now works for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), began her nurse training in 1968. After paying for board and lodgings, she was left with £6 a month to live on in central London.

Despite notching up five decades as a nurse, Caroline, who currently works four days a week in a memory clinic for patients with a diagnosis of dementia, has no plans to stop, or even slow down.

'I love it,' she said. 'I enjoy getting up in the morning and going to work. I like the people I work with and it's a rewarding job.

'When I get amazing feedback, it's really satisfying. Recently, the daughter of one of my patients said that if gold medals could be handed out for nursing, I would deserve one, which was really lovely.

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'I think the training was far better when I started out. There weren't nursing degrees in those days and I went into nursing with six O levels.

'I qualified in 1972 after four years of training, all of which was spent on the wards of hospitals in Westminster. Nurses today all have degrees but, in my opinion, they're not always well qualified in terms of life skills.'

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Caroline recently met up in London with nurses from all over the world, including the United States, Canada and Australia, who started their training together 50 years ago. She is the only one still working.

After qualifying, she worked for about two years on an orthopaedic ward in London before moving to Norfolk in 1974 where she has worked ever since.

She is currently enjoying her second spell at Chatterton House – she first went there to work night shifts on Chase Ward, which was a ward for patients with a diagnosis of dementia. She has been in her current role for the past five years.

Caroline also spent 10 years as an intensive care nurse, firstly at the old King's Lynn hospital in London Road and then at the current Queen Elizabeth Hospital which replaced it.

Other roles have included being a Marie Curie nurse, a sister on a rehabilitation ward at the former St James's Hospital in King's Lynn and six months spent as a nurse at the old sugar factory in Saddlebow.

Caroline, who is originally from Surrey, and her husband had four children in seven years but she returned to work as a bank nurse soon after each birth.

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