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UK’s longest serving nurses retires after 66 years in NHS

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An 84-year-old nurse has just retired from her job in Devon, after clocking up a 66 years’ service for the NHS – thought to make her the country’s oldest and longest serving member of the profession.

Until earlier this month, Monica Bulman worked on Hutchings Ward at Torbay Hospital, as part of the specialist outpatient surgical clinic team for endoscopy.

“I’m going to thoroughly miss being a nurse”

Monica Bulman

She retired from Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust on 22 February, meaning she has worked for the NHS for 66 out of the 70 years since its creation, which is being celebrated this year.

Ms Bulman started to work in the NHS in 1952 aged 19 as a state enrolled nurse before undergoing further training to qualify as a state registered nurse in 1957.

She said: “I have decided that it’s now time for me to put my fob watch and belt away to enable me to spend quality time with all my loved ones.

“I have absolutely loved being a nurse – it has brought me so much pleasure and I have enjoyed every single second,” she said. “I’m going to thoroughly miss being a nurse.”

Ms Bulman noted that much had changed during her career, including advances in technology and different uniforms.

“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.

She added: “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.

“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.”

“We are incredibly grateful for Monica’s incredible 66 years of dedicated nursing service in the NHS”

Liz Davenport

Ms Bulman highlighted that her “favourite time” had been while training as a student, but added that she had “never been unhappy at work and have so many wonderful memories and friendships”.

“My job has kept me going and helped me through some of the toughest times in my life,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without my colleagues and a job where I could dedicate myself to caring for others.”

Liz Davenport, interim chief executive of Torbay and South Devon, said: “I am sure I speak for everyone at the trust when I say, we are incredibly grateful for Monica’s incredible 66 years of dedicated nursing service in the NHS – she really is an inspiration to us all.

“It’s no mean feat to be one of the longest serving nurses in the country,” she said. “We are so proud that she has been a member of our staff for so many years and we know that many people will have benefitted from her nursing skills and positivity.

“We wish Monica all the very best in her retirement and we’re sure that she will make the most of this new and exciting chapter in her life,” she added.

Monica Bulman’s career in nursing

Ms Bulman 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, she stayed at St John’s and worked as a staff nurse as well as a theatre nurse until she left in 1959.

Since then, Ms Bulman has worked at a number of different hospitals. In 1968, she moved to Torquay with her husband and two sons and began to work for a nursing agency. In 1978, she started to work at Paignton Community Hospital on the then casualty department as well as for outpatients departments.

In 1998, aged 65 years, Ms Bulman had no plans to retire as she “didn’t want to”. A sister from the outpatients department at Torbay Hospital asked her to work as a bank nurse for a few weeks but she ended up staying. She has been at Torbay Hospital since 1998 and is currently part of the specialist outpatient surgical clinic team for endoscopy.

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Readers' comments (6)

  • Congratulations, to her! my only wish Is that I could have started 20 years earlier! I could have avoided the fiasco my last 20 years were. She lauds the advances, many are worthy, but Nurses today have lost the plot

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  • It’s really uplifting to read stories like this in our profession. Unfortunately I feel my three years so far in nursing has had more negatives than positives. On top of facing the daily challenges of today’s NHS, I have very often encountered bullying among nurses. This saddens me and has affected me to the point where I close to leaving the profession all together. Where have we gone wrong today?

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  • Many congratulations Monica I hope you had a brilliant send off.
    I’m just 43 years in nursing and apart from the occasional blip I still love nursing
    Enjoy your family time

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  • Well done to her. At 65 with only 41 years on the job I feel like a baby.
    I am constantly saddened at the negative comments directed towards the young nurses of today. Nursing has changed but nurses have not really. I work with young enthusiastic caring men and women who are fully able to carry the baton for the future. I feel we (especially old fuddy duddies) should be more supportive and sing their praises
    rather than constantly find fault. I so hate the sentiment...well back in my day...
    Well done to her and well done to the current crop of good people choosing nursing as I career.

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  • Good luck Monica and enjoy your retirement.

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  • Monica that is so cool. Begin to enjoy your retirement thoroughly.

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