DEDICATED nurse Betty Harvey is finally retiring at the age of 80 – after more than 50 years serving in her profession.
Mrs Harvey began her training as a pupil nurse at the Ingham Infirmary, South Shields, in 1962, after a tutor on a first aid course spotted her potential, and suggested she should apply.
She qualified as a state-enrolled nurse in 1964 and, apart from a short time on the wards, spent most of her career as a theatre nurse.
Mrs Harvey previously retired when she was 65, but was persuaded to come back to South Tyneside District Hospital part-time, so she could continue to share her vast experience.
Over the years, Mrs Harvey has assisted surgeons in countless operations involving surgery of all kinds, including orthopaedic, gynaecological and eye, as well as general surgery.
She said: “I went into theatre during my training, and they told me I fitted in to surgery, so that’s where I stayed. It’s very hard work and requires intense concentration but I have loved every minute of it.
“There is something very special about being part of the team in theatre. You develop a real bond.”
Mrs Harvey, who lives in South Shields, has seen many changes in the past half century.
She said: “We used to address the surgeons as ‘sir’ but now everything is much more relaxed.
“There have been major improvements in sterilisation.
“We used to have to sterilise our own needles and we’d blow the gloves up to see if there was a hole and then patch it up.
“Now everything is pre-packed.
“Computerised technology has also considerably changed the way we work, but it is still all about working as a team.
“South Tyneside District Hospital is the best for running operating theatres, and I am very proud to have been part of that team.”
Mrs Harvey, a widow, will retire next month and intends to devote her time to her family, which includes eight grandchildren, and her hobbies of gardening and reading. She added: “I will really miss all the wonderful theatre staff.
“I’m lucky that I’ve been healthy and have lots of energy.
“That has enabled me to carry on working, but I think it’s time for me to go.”
However, one of Mrs Harvey’s daughters, Anne Appleby, is carrying on in her footsteps.
Mrs Appleby worked as a senior staff nurse in intensive care at the district hospital for about 20 years, and is now one of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust’s health visitors in the borough.
Between them, mother and daughter have given more than 75 years’ service to the NHS in South Tyneside.
Lorraine Lambert, chief executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Betty has made an absolutely incredible contribution to the NHS in South Tyneside and to the operating theatres at South Tyneside District Hospital, in particular.
“Her dedication and enthusiasm have been an inspiration, and her experience and skill have made her an invaluable member of the team.
“She will be sorely missed by her colleagues.”