Suffolk: Nurse celebrates 50 years in the profession

A GRANDMOTHER who has enjoyed an expansive 50-year career in the nursing profession has said the job ‘would give her up before she gave it up.’

Lesley Williams, from Barningham, has spent five decades in the job she loves and in that time the 68-year-old has received a Florence Nightingale award for research and been recruited by the government to train nurses in the Seychelles.

To mark her achievement, she celebrated with a party at the home of her daughter, Samantha Reid, in Bury St Edmunds on Sunday.

It gave her the chance to reminisce about the changes she has seen over the past 50 years, from the uniforms and the shrinking power of matron to improvements in stroke care and rehabilitation services.

Mrs Williams, who has two daughters and three grandchildren, previously worked for West Suffolk Health Authority, covering St Mary’s Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and the Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury.


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She currently works for NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney as an education facilitator and is also divisional president for St John Ambulance in Bury St Edmunds.

Mrs Williams, who trained at the Royal Free Hospital in London, qualifying in 1964, said her current role has been particularly rewarding.

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She said: “I can help students understand care of the elderly, and my best time is at the bed side. I’m also involved at palliative care at Waveney and I take pride in care of the dying.”

She added: “I love the care of the elderly and it was the Walnuttree that did that for me. It was a very inspiring place I found.”

Mrs Williams, of Millfield Road, said one of the attractions of nursing for her was it fulfilled her desire to be needed, and she has no inclination to retire any time soon.

She said: “Nursing will give me up before I give it up.”

Last October she visited Tanzania on a volunteering trip and she is hoping to return in the near future to offer her expertise at a hospital there.

Mrs Williams spoke of the dominance of the matron when she started out in her career, recalling a popular phrase: ‘The only thing that goes on the floor, nurse, is your feet.’

She remembered how she was once reprimanded by matron for placing a bet for a patient.

“The matrons in those days controlled absolutely everything and controlled what the surgeons did,” she said.

Other salient moments of her career have included becoming the first nurse to receive a masters degree at the University of East Anglia, she said.

She said Sunday’s celebration was really to say thank you to her family and friends who have supported her.

“I really only wanted to say thank you to them because nurses are always going here, there and everywhere and in other walks of life you would probably lose friends,” she said.

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