Pioneering nurse retires with a “heavy heart”

Nurse Terri Johns from North Elmham, is retiring after 38 years. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Nurse Terri Johns from North Elmham, is retiring after 38 years. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

She stood at the forefront of pioneering neurological care - making sure Norfolk's patients and their families had the very best treatment and support.

Terri Johns as a student nurse in 1979

Terri Johns as a student nurse in 1979 - Credit: Archant

But Terri Johns last night said it was with a 'heavy heart' that she decided to retire from the Neurological Outreach Service she set up at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital 17 years ago.

Having worked in Dereham Hospital, Kelling Hospital and finally the NNUH in Norwich, the 54-year-old from North Elmham was one of the first specialist neurology nurses in the region covering Norwich, south Norfolk and north Suffolk.

Treating people with Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and motor neurone disease, Mrs Johns was a trail-blazer in the field.

From training new nurses to work in the department, to educating those with the conditions on how to manage them, the team of four doctors and two nurses grew to seven neurology doctors and nine nurses under Mrs Johns' watch.

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'I am proud of what I have done, being alongside patients and their families in times of difficulty. It's quite a privilege,' she said.

'I always loved neurology, right from my training I always homed in on it. I found it fascinating. It was exciting when I first came in and it's still exciting, but I wanted to go when I was still enjoying it.'

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After qualifying as a State Enrolled Nurse in 1979 from St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, Mrs Johns moved to Dereham where she worked for seven years and re-trained in the evenings as a Registered General Nurse.

But it was at the Norfolk and Norwich where she took the role in the Neurological Outreach Service when she started travelling around the world, networking and sharing ideas with other nurses to ensure this county had cutting-edge knowledge and care.

'I don't know how I had time do it all,' she admitted.

While many of the country's neurology nurses specialise in the specific diseases Mrs Johns said Norfolk's generic nursing, dealing with combinations of diseases, has meant the team was stronger and able to help each other.

'The service is quite unique in Norfolk', she said. 'We are not disease specific and we fought quite hard to keep it like that.'

She added: 'I know I am going to miss my patients,' she said. 'I have loved what I have done and I have met so many interesting people.'

She said after her 36 years in the National Health Service there have been 'an awful lot of changes'.

'Some of them have been refreshing, some for the good but not all of them. But there is still a lot to do in the area, and a big part of that is managing patients' long-term disabilities as well as looking after their carers. If we don't do that then they will become our patients.'

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