I may have started my healthcare journey fifty years ago, but my commitment and passion remain as strong as ever.
The World Health Organisation designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. I’m proud to be one of the 1,300 nurses across Virgin Care who delivers services on behalf of the NHS, and it’s excellent that our contributions to helping people feel the difference are valued.
In 1970, I began as an auxiliary nurse whilst I was waiting to start my nurse training the following year. I vividly remember tucking and tying my hair underneath a stiff nurse’s hat, regularly inspected by the Matron, who seemed to appear as if from thin air.
My State Registered Nurse Training was three years long and involved pre-training school, placements on wards and placements with community Health Visitors. It was this experience that determined what I wanted to do in life and who I wanted to be; a Health Visitor.
My adventures of working on night duty as a student nurse are memories that will stay with me forever. My colleagues and I would be in charge of three wards where we would have to carry drugs in backpacks as we walked around the grounds alone in pitch black darkness. It was a fairly scary experience because the grounds were very large and open. I cannot imagine this happening today, but remember this was at a time long before mobile phones and panic alarms existed.
Once qualified as a State Registered Nurse, I then moved on to train as a State Certified Midwife. I worked as a Staff Midwife for a year before I applied to the Health Authority for Health Visiting in order to train as a Health Visitor. After I qualified in 1978, my first placement was in the Maldon Community Centre, which is where I currently still work!
The area that I cover is very large and rural, with small villages and larger new towns, but the general hospital is over an hour drive for many. When I first started, I was allocated a geographical area and would plan my home visits monthly. I would cover a long list: antenatal contacts, new birth visits, six week checks, three monthly visits, seven to nine- month developmental checks, one year checks, 18 month checks, two year checks, three and a half year checks and four and a half year checks on every child in my patch.
We didn’t have computers, mobile telephones or electronic aids; we had individual booklets for each child with pages for each home visit and developmental assessments.
In those days, all visits were unplanned and mothers were unlikely to return to work whilst they still had young children, so they were nearly all home. I have seen a lot of changes in family structures during my time as a Health Visitor and I’ve witnessed the dynamics transform.
Moreover, we also assisted in schools once a term as the ‘nit nurse’, checking every child’s head in all primary and secondary schools, sometimes standing on chairs on football pitches checking teenagers’ heads for nits!
Over the years, my employers have varied from the Health Authority, to the Social Enterprise, to Virgin Care in partnership with Barnardo’s; but I have remained a proud Health Visitor in Essex the entire time.
I recently received recognition for my career at Virgin Care’s annual Feel the Difference Awards, where I was given the Long Service Award to celebrate my 50 years in nursing. To be acknowledged made me feel very honoured. Knowing that people understand and commemorate what I do is incredible.
Essex Health Visitor and long service award winner, Susan Davies pictured with Richard Comerford, Managing Director at the Annual Feel the Difference Awards in January 2020.
I am an extremely proud Health Visitor, which explains why I have been one for so long. I work with and support families and new parents along their journey, offering advice with their parenting and their health and family needs. My aim before I leave each visit is to ensure that I have made that family feel positive. It’s important that someone tells them what a good job they’re doing, and that they have a beautiful baby and a beautiful family. I also have the pleasure of working with a lovely, happy team where we all support each other. Although the job can be challenging and overwhelming, we are all committed to doing our best to help our families and to make a difference in their lives.
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