49 years of caring for others
9:47am Thu Aug 11, 2011
Mrs Donnelly, who has just retired as a nurse after 49 years, with the uniform as it is today. - 040811MW3-4
When Mrs Val Donnelly began her nursing career 49 years ago Newark Hospital matron ruled with a rod of iron.
Today, although the role of matron has made a comeback, the atmosphere on wards is far more informal.

Mrs Donnelly, of South Muskham, a staff nurse, has just retired. She says: “Matron was very stern. You had to do exactly as you were told but you learnt the right way to do things.

“It was the same with the ward sister. Everything ran like clockwork. You knew you had to do your best.”

Mrs Donnelly always wanted to be a nurse and while at Sconce Hills Secondary School, Newark, took a pre-nursing CSE qualification.

When she left school she worked as a nanny for a year before becoming a cadet nurse at Newark Hospital, then on London Road.

She says: “Nursing has become more academic now.

“In those days you spent six weeks learning the basics then you went straight on to the wards. You learnt as you did the job.”

Mrs Donnelly has always enjoyed working on the surgical wards and moved to Minster ward (surgical) when the new hospital opened on Boundary Road in 1996.

She says: “There is much more day surgery than there was.

“People used to stay in hospital for three days for a hernia operation, now they come in the morning and go home in the evening.

“The atmosphere on wards is more low key, but there is a happy team who all work together.”

During her career Mrs Donnelly has worked for four different hospital trusts and seen many changes — not least the amount of paperwork and style of uniform.

When she began, nurses had starched collars and hats, fitted cuffs and wore cloaks when they went outside. Today there are no hats and few accessories in order to make the uniform as hygienic as possible.

Mrs Donnelly remembers when Newark had a children’s ward and a maternity wing.

She says: “Newark Hospital used to be very busy. I think people forget that we did major surgery, often in the middle of the night in emergencies.

“Now, there’s no major surgery, just joint replacement. In fact my husband had his knee replaced on my ward three years ago.”

Mrs Donnelly says she misses her colleagues and working with patients, but she won’t miss being on the rota at Christmas and bank holidays.

At her retirement party she was contacted by a former colleague from the 1960s and now she has time, hopes to organise a reunion of former staff to be held at The Deincourt Hotel on London Road, the site of the former nurses’ home.

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