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Nurse of 56 years retires from wards

The 56-year-career of Britain’s longest serving nurse has come to an end and she insists she does not regret a single day.

Seventy-four-year-old Jean Colclough started as a nurse in 1956 when she was just 18. Back then her annual salary was just £260 but she fell in love with nursing and 56 years later her enthusiasm for the job remains.

As she retired from her position at Southend Hospital she said she had struggled to write the letter which announced her plans to leave the role. She said she would be pleased to stay working as a nurse but had to retire now or there would be a negative impact on her pension.

But Jean has not ruled out doing shifts as a bank nurse in the future.

She said she would find it hard to not go to work any more but she was about to move house, which would keep her busy for a while.

Those who have worked with Jean say she is as energetic as her younger workmates. And her career is even more remarkable as doctors never expected her survive past her 40th birthday, after she had one of her lungs taken out in 1960.

When Jean was young she had ambitions to go to university and become a doctor but her family did not have the money needed to put her through medical school.

But she says she is pleased with the way things have turned out and has loved working in every ward she has been assigned to.

Jean became night sister at Southend in 1982 and has walked thousands of miles along the hospital’s corridors in the 30 years she has held the position.

Readers' comments (7)

  • the woman deserves a medal. 'had one of her lungs out' - is that a technical term?

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  • She must not have had much of a life outside work to want to spend so many years slogging away on nights!!

    Enjoy your retirement Jean; you have certainly earned it.

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  • wow!!!!!!!!!!! 56 years as a nurse. That is outstanding. I have only been in nursing for two years but with all the negatives around -don't think I will last long. Patients' relatives don't appreciate your hard work neither does the government. We are always short of staff and yet they expect high standards. How far can one stretch the working hours?
    Good luck on your retirement Jean

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  • Jean, All the Best, Enjoy the Rest.
    Wish you well.

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  • This is so heartwarming to read. I have only been nursing for 28 years; however, have been eagerly looking forward to the day I can retire - thinking about going aged 55! Reading this actually makes me mindful of why I came into nursing, how I once felt about nursing, etc. Reading the other reader’s comments about how despondent she already feels at 2 years qualified enables me to see why I feel keen to retire. It is NOT me; it’s the system and government that have changed so appallingly, that have changed my feelings from those that were once like Jean Colclough’s …… I expected to be like her really, but am 49 years old and things have changed so much I cannot see me doing as she has done. Lovely to feel the old feeling again though :) All the best to her x

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  • Congratulations Jean, I started my nursing in 1958 at Sefton General Hospital, Liverpool and continued my nursing in other countries after emigrating. In New Zealand, my present home, I worked in many fields of nursing and retired in 2004. I wonder if Jean's lung was removed because of tuberculosis, which was an occupational disease of nursing in the 1950-60's and for which I had 10 months sick lease during my training.
    Enjoy your retirement Jean. Best Regards
    from another Oldtimer.

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  • I am staggered at this acheivment. Jean deserves all the plaudits she receives for more than a lifetime of service to others.

    On the other hand, no matter how dedicated, people MUST plan for the day when work will leave them (a person's worth should never be defined by what they do for a living). For this to happen they must maintain a life outside of their work throughout their working life and not wait until retirment looms.

    I hope Jean enjoys a long, happy and fulfilling retirment. She deserves it but that the fact that she is already thinking about returnng to work bank shifts before she has even left may suggest otherwise.

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