Nurse Signing Off After 52 Years

Two years sounds a long time to stay in one career these days, but for Dunedin Hospital operating theatre nurse Jenny King the past five decades have flown by.


Nurse Signing Off After 52 Years. Photo: Gregor Richardson

Although the 68-year-old Mosgiel woman has a week to go until she officially leaves her job as an operating theatre nurse at Dunedin Hospital, she was given a special farewell by her fifth-floor operating theatre colleagues yesterday.

Mrs King’s final day at work will be next Friday.

"That will be when I have to clean out my locker," she said, describing the state of her locker as something of "a well-known joke".

She first became involved with nursing in 1965 as a 16-year-old hospital aide at the Mosgiel Maternity Hospital. Later the same year she was transferred to Queen Mary Maternity Hospital in Dunedin and worked as a hospital aide in the delivery suites.

In April 1966, she began her enrolled nursing training. She was the youngest in the first class of community nurses to be trained by the Dunedin School of Nursing, turning 17 about two days into that training. Like most nurses back then, she lived in what was the Nurses Home in Castle St.

Two years later, she obtained her theatre nursing endorsement and started work in the main Dunedin Hospital operating theatre at Easter, 1968.

"And I never left," she said yesterday.

At that time, the operating theatres were sited where the under-building car park is now located.

Mrs King and her husband Ken were married in 1970 and she continued working full-time, taking five months maternity leave in 1977 when their daughter Jamie was born. She returned to work but decided her family had to come first and opted to go on permanent night shift until Jamie went to high school.

"I was very lucky having such a supportive husband and a good boss," Mrs King said.

The night shift meant she could be at home for her daughter in the evening and at the start of the day and her husband could go to his work as a builder. He managed Jamie’s care at other times.

And she changed from her specialist nursing field of neuro-surgery to ENT and eye surgery, although the night shift meant dealing with "whatever came through the door". Her former nursing boss,  Pam Nichols, now nurse manager of day surgery, said she believed the five months maternity leave was the only time off Mrs King took from her job.

"Her retirement will mark the end of an era," she said.

Mrs King said she had seen many changes during her 52 years on the job, an early one being the change from white dresses, pantyhose, shoes and caps to coloured trousers and tops, or "scrubs".

"I think I was one of the last to make the change. I liked the white uniform," she said.

Other standout changes were the great advances in surgery, meaning people who would otherwise have died could be saved. And the use of helicopter transfers allowed for more patients to be treated within the "golden hour", giving them much greater chances of survival. Mrs King said she had enjoyed all 52 years of her life as a theatre nurse and her colleagues said they would  miss her common-sense approach, humour and quirky comments.

"I’m going to miss you all," Mrs King told those at the special afternoon tea yesterday.

But she was looking forward to having more family time, particularly with her young grandson, Harry (11 months), who was at the farewell with his parents and other family.


Source: Kay Sinclair, Otago Daily Times



Nurse Signing Off After 52 Years

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The Operating Theatre Journal, OTJ, is published monthly and distributed to every hospital operating theatre department in the UK. The distribution includes both the National Health Service and the Private Sector.

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