Mayor’s visit highlights changing role of nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King’s Lynn

When Gwyneth Wilson became a nurse 30 years ago, a baby born at 28 weeks had a 50/50 chance of survival. Now she is director of nursing at a Norfolk hospital where the odds are closer to 100pc.

Yesterday Mrs Wilson and other senior nurses toured wards at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, with West Norfolk Mayor Zipha Christopher.

Mrs Christopher wanted to find out what the work of a modern nurse entails, before she presents nursing awards to QEH staff at a dinner on Friday night.

Mrs Wilson said with people living longer, many patients admitted to hospital were more seriously ill than those 30 years ago.

'People are much sicker,' she said. 'People who would have died in their 60s are now living into their 80s.

'Nursing has changed hugely. Nurses do far more than work at bedside.'

Many of the 1,200 nurses at the QEH are no longer based on wards. Many specialise, in tune with the changing priorities of 21st Century healthcare.

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'Nurses have become much more flexible, they don't just nurse,' said nurse consultant Karen McGuire.

'You've got specialist nurses and nurses who've taken on some of the traditional medical roles.'

Mrs McGuire - a nurse for 22 years - leads a four-strong critical care outreach team, which operates across acute areas of the hospital.

Mental health liaison nurse Ben Galvin explained how Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia were now among the fastest-growing sectors in West Norfolk.

As well as people living longer, many retire to the area, creating a more elderly population.

Advances in orthopaedic care mean patients with broken limbs no longer spend time attached to ropes and pulleys, in traction.

As well as no longer needing to check their weights, nurses no longer have to wheel patients out onto the hospital roof for some fresh air.

Mrs Christopher's visit begins a week of nursing-themed events at the QEH to celebrate International Nurses Day - the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth - on Thursday.

'It's been a real eye-opener,' she said. 'It's really lovely to see behind the scenes and the wonderfully-enthusiastic staff.'

Awards to QEH staff are being presented at the LeStrange Hotel, in Old Hunstanton, on Friday night.

Categories include best team, inspirational leadership, nurse who has made a difference and long service awards.