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Devon hospital trust celebrates one of Britain’s oldest nurses

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A Torbay Hospital nurse has celebrated her 83rd birthday this month but says she has no plans to give up work yet.

Monica Bulman, a registered general nurse, works on Hutchings ward at Torbay Hospital as part of the specialist outpatient surgical clinic team for endoscopy. She is one of the oldest nurses in Britain.

“I still have and wear the very same belt to this day”

Monica Bulman

She started to work in the NHS in 1952, aged 19, as a state enrolled nurse before qualifying as a state registered nurse in 1957.

Ms Bulman, who said she has no plans to retire, still works for 15-20 hours each week for Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.

She said: “I love my job, each and every part of it. Being a nurse brings me so much pleasure and keeps me on my toes.

“The NHS has been a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t want it any other way – I’m always happy at work, I just don’t have down days when I’m at work,” she said.

“Monica really is an inspiration to us all”

Mairead McAlinden

She added: “I still have no plans to retire and I hope to keep going for as long as I am able.”

Ms Bulman noted that she had seen many changes after 64 years working as a healthcare professional

“Although we now have much more paperwork to compete, it is fantastic that with the technology we can now look up our patient’s x-rays and test results at the click of a button rather than having lengthy waits for the information,” she said.

“Another change that amuses me is that years ago the theatre nurses, who were all gowned up, had to manually thread the needles for surgery, whereas now these all come in packs, pre-threaded,” added Ms Bulman.

“The uniforms have also changed considerably although I have to admit I did prefer our old uniforms, they were much more glamourous,” she said. “I bought a belt to wear with my uniform when I qualified in 1957 – I still have and wear the very same belt to this day.”

Ms Bulman said her “favourite time” was while training at St John’s Hospital in London. “After being on night duty, the Sister used to give us [the students] a cup of cocoa every morning after our night shift… she was our ‘mother hen’, she noted.

Mairead McAlinden, chief executive of the trust, said: “Monica really is an inspiration to us all. Not only is she an outstanding nurse, but she leads by example by keeping active, fit and helping others.

“She exudes all of the qualities that a good nurse should possess and is a shining example of this trust’s commitment to caring, excellent service,” she said.

“I am sure I speak for everyone at the trust when I say we are incredibly grateful for Monica’s continued dedication,” she added.

Monica Bulman: A life in nursing

Monica started her state enrolled nurse training in 1952 at Eltham Hospital, London, before moving to St John’s Hospital, London, in 1954 to qualify as a state registered nurse.

Upon qualifying in 1957, Monica stayed at St John’s and worked as a staff nurse as well as a theatre nurse until she left in 1959. Since then, Monica has worked at a number of different hospitals.

In 1968, Monica moved to Torquay with her husband and two sons and began to work for a nursing agency. In 1978, Monica started to work at Paignton Community Hospital on the then casualty department as well as for outpatients departments.

Monica has been at Torbay Hospital since 1998 and is currently part of the specialist outpatient surgical clinic team for endoscopy.

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