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Nurses celebrate reunion 40 years after training

A group of nurses who trained at St Thomas’ Hospital 40 years ago have reunited at the hospital to celebrate the NHS turning 70.

Jenny Theed was 21 years old when she started training to be a nurse at St Thomas’ in 1978. She became a senior staff nurse caring for patients with kidney failure, before moving to Bristol in 1982.

The 61 year old, along with 35 other ‘Nightingale nurses’ who graduated from the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’, recently reunited to share memories and tour the hospital.

Jenny, who is now Director of Operations and Nursing for Sirona care & health in Bristol, said: “It was a brilliant place to train and was absolutely at the forefront. We were one of the first centres to do peritoneal dialysis (a treatment that uses the lining of the abdomen and a cleaning solution to clean the blood), which was pioneering.”

Jenny added: “The tour of the hospital showed us how much the NHS has moved on in 40 years and gave us the opportunity to see some brand new state-of- the-art facilities. North Wing felt the same – like we had just left it – but the reception area was unrecognisable. Everyone at St Thomas’ really made us feel welcome and it was a very touching and emotional trip down memory lane.”

In the 1970s Gassiot House, which is now used as an outpatient centre and office space, was the nurses’ accommodation but Jenny lived locally and travelled in for work.

She said: “It was highly unusual for students to be able to ‘live out’. I was the only graduate student doing this but, as I had been to university in London and already had my own flat, I was given ‘dispensation’ on the understanding I would attend my placement shifts on time.”

Jenny added: “One of my lasting memories as a student nurse was working on the children’s ward. I can still remember sitting in a rocking chair and feeding the babies while overlooking the River Thames and Big Ben. Our uniform looked totally different to what the student nurses wear today and constructing the lace hats which we wore was an evening’s exercise.”

James Hill, head of nursing in acute medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’, took the group on a tour of Henry Ward, the maternity unit and the revamped major treatment area in the Emergency Department (A&E), which opened last month.

James said: “We were delighted to welcome back the Nightingale nurses who trained here and to show them how the hospital has changed and developed since their time at St Thomas’.

“It was a great opportunity for us to show them our new majors area, which is improving the quality of care as well as the overall experience of patients requiring emergency treatment.”

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