Sheffield nurse who is older than the NHS still nursing at age 81

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A nurse who was born before the existence of the NHS is still working and seeing patients in the community – at the age of 81.

Maureen Horton said: “I retired from full-time nursing at 60, I had a nice week off and then I was sitting on the settee one day and I thought ‘what will I do now.’ So I took up a community bank nursing opportunity and I have been doing it ever since.”

Maureen was born in 1937, 11 years before the introduction of the NHS in 1948, and started her career as a nurse in 1969 when she worked as a mental health nurse at Middlewood Hospital in Sheffield.

She subsequently applied to become a State Enrolled Nurse (SEN) after seeing an advert in the Sheffield Evening Star, and qualified in 1972 after passing an entrance exam and training at Nether Edge Hospital and the Northern General Hospital.

She then moved into community nursing, and has continued to do the job she loves ever since. She currently works about 20 hours a week, doing community shifts for Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

In a typical shift, Maureen works from about 9am to 4pm and drives around Sheffield visiting patients at home or in residential care. In that time she will see about eight to ten patients, and undertakes a broad range of clinical tasks, including venepunture, blood pressure checks, ear syringing, PEG feeding tubes maintenance, respiratory checks, wound dressings and catheter care. She also helps and supports patients, carers and families when somebody is coming to the end of their life.

Maureen said: “I just like being out in the community and visiting people and meeting people and helping them in their recovery.

“I still drive to patients and whichever team I am with, I am given a list of patients to visit and I just go and get the job done.

“Patients know me by name but I don’t usually tell them my age. Sometimes my colleagues will ask them ‘do you know how old she is’ and they can’t believe it when they find out.

“When I see patients the same age as me who are quite frail or poorly, I just try to encourage them. Not everyone is as lucky as I have been with my health.”

Maureen said she intends to keep working while she still feels fit and healthy, and that her family encourage her. She has undertaken mandatory training and study days to keep her skills and knowledge up to date.

“I don’t like sitting about, I have to get out and do something,” she said.

“Sometimes I say to my family ‘I will probably finish this year,’ but they say ‘we know you won’t be able to sit still!’

“My husband, Edward, encourages me – I think he likes having the house to himself so he can watch the cricket!

“I take it each month at a time as I keep going. At the moment I feel good. I do midweek shifts where possible though, as after all these years I prefer to have the weekends off.”

One of the main changes Maureen has had to get used to during her long career is the introduction of new technology, and particularly using laptop computers to make patient notes. She had never used a computer before they were introduced by community services.

She said: “When I started all the notes were written down by hand. Doing this job was the first time I had ever used a computer, and it was a bit overwhelming at first, but my colleagues were really good and showed me what to do if I had any difficulties. Over time you get to grips with it.

“Another change is the equipment, which has got better over the years.”

One thing that hasn’t changed, she said, is the dedication of the community staff.

“It is just as good as it ever has been. They work very hard and are very devoted and very good at what they do.

“I think the NHS means a lot to people, to know that it is always there for people that need it and I hope it carries on like that. I have known it since I was a child and it has served the country well.”