For more than half the lifetime of the NHS Elaine Bodle, head of nursing at Barlborough NHS Treatment Centre, has been caring for patients in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, and now she and colleagues at the centre are celebrating the health service’s 70th anniversary.
Elaine Bodle, who was born in Chesterfield and who moved to Nottinghamshire when her father’s mining job took him to the county, began her nurse training in 1977 in Rotherham District General and Sheffield Northern General Hospitals.
She said: “I qualified in 1981, just after having my son Stephen. I took six weeks maternity leave and was back on the wards. Nurse training was very different in those days: it was very task orientated and we were put to work on the wards from the get go. I remember my first week saw me taking observations, such as temperature and blood pressure readings.
“The next week I was on sputum collection. I remember the sound of people coughing and spitting made me feel sick to my stomach, but by the end of the week I didn’t notice it at all. We worked on rotation on every ward from maternity to geriatrics and everything in between, which is very different from the more academic style of courses today’s nurses undertake.”
The rigid hierarchy that people think of from films like Carry on Doctor has also changed. Elaine said: “When I was training, first year nurses were shooed off the ward by ward sisters before the consultants arrived. We would be given duties like warming the milk for the consultants’ coffee after their rounds.
“It was only in your second year that you were allowed to stay on the ward and pass the consultant the patient’s notes when they nodded to you, although we were certainly not allowed to speak.”
That has all changed. Elaine said: “At Barlborough NHS Treatment Centre we have a very collaborative approach and experience and knowledge is more important than rank. We all work together for the benefit of the patient. I, and many of the nurses, have worked in many different specialisms and the consultants value the knowledge we have gained.”
The relationship between nurses and patients has also changed. Elaine said: “When I began nursing, matron and ward sisters were truly terrifying. When they went on their rounds you had to know everything about each patient and be able to answer all their questions. We also had to ‘jump to’ for any students who were more advanced in their training than us, even if it was only by three months.
“I think even the patients held their breath around sister and matron. That has all changed for the better. There was always consent, but treatment was something that happened to patients. Now we involve them in every aspect of their care, explaining what we are doing and why, and they really appreciate that.”
Looking to the future, Elaine is confident nursing will go from strength to strength: “I think all the time we can attract people who are caring, empathetic and dedicated, who will sit and reassure patients and relatives and who have the intellect to take on research-based, professional training, the future of care is in safe hands.”
Elaine will be celebrating the NHS’ anniversary with colleagues and cake. She said: “I love being a nurse: there has not been one day in 37 years when I haven’t woken up and been happy to go to work. The treatment centre is a very special place and I am always delighted when I hear my team laughing and joking with patients as they leave us, pain free and well on the way to recovery.
“The NHS is very special, and I cannot think of anywhere I’d prefer to be spending this very special day.”