March 12, 2021, by School of Medicine

30 at 30: Keeping it in the Family: A 60-year legacy and counting

An old photo of Joan in her nurse's uniformIt all started with my mother, Joan.  

Joan grew up the 1940s and 50s and always knew she wanted to be a nurse. Her greatest challenge to managing her dream was not realising any educational qualifications but that she would be tall enough. Joan was always petite and needed to be taller than the entry requirements of 4‘10’’. In the end she reached the dizzy heights, excuse the pun, of 5’.  

Both Joan and her sister enrolled as nurse cadets. Joan qualified as a State Registered Nurse/ British Tuberculosis Nurse. Once registered, Joan had to tackle a challenge thousands of other nurses faced during that time: whether or not she would keep her position as a nurse, or resign to raise a family.  

Fortunately she was stubborn and my father was supportive, so she remained in service whilst others, including her best friend, stepped aside to bring up a family. My aunt also worked at her local hospital, her husband permitted this. How times have changed.  

Joan worked at Ransom sanatorium as a Staff Nurse and then a Sister; her passion was TB nursing. I have fond memories of going with her, if not at school, on a Friday in the hospital transport (a white transit van!) to collect her salary. I suppose this is how I got my immunity to TB.  

Joan ended up as the Nursing Officer before the facility closed in the 70s and then she moved to her local hospital as a Sister in coronary care. She loved the wards and stayed in clinical practice until she retired in her late 50s. She was liked and respected greatly. Even now folk who remember her ask me to send her their love to Sr. Carroll.  

Me, in contrast, had no interest in nursing as a child; I didn’t want to be like my mother; I wanted to teach maths! Can you imagine? However when I entered the 6th form and started to look at the universities, I had doubts. It was a good friend, Denise, who saw this and said “have you considered something other? I’m going to study nursing”.  

The seed was set and so, in 1982, I did indeed follow Joan into nursing..  

Armed with my O Levels, I studied and became a qualified Registered General Nurse; it was made somewhat easier as all knew my mother and liked her. I may have started each area as student nurse Carroll but I always completed as Lesley. I qualified. I loved it, I love it. I practiced the ‘knowledgeable doer’ and the ‘six C’s’ before they were a thing. It seemed so natural. Nursing was changing though and having a certificate, because that’s all I had, wasn’t enough. So I moved through the spectrum from diploma to masters. In 2004 I made the transition to education but I kept a little part time role to keep my hands in, as I could never quite give it up.  

As I come to the twilight of my career it’s time to pass the baton again. But not to my eldest son who went to the dark side; he is a Dr in Psychiatry. Instead, the baton goes to my daughter, who like me, grew up not wanting to be a nurse. However, after a good few years as a healthcare worker has now seen the same light that I did and is now training to be a registered nurse.  

I don’t know who is most excited me or my mother; who in her 80s can still read an ECG.  

The post note is, as my daughter enters her nurse trainer, my granddaughter has told us all that she would like to also be a nurse when she grows up. However, she did add the caveat that it would be part time, alongside her hairdressing and teaching jobs, so we’ll have to see what the future holds there.  

Either way, nursing has been in our family for over 60 years and 3 generations, and counting…  

By Lesley Strouther, Lecturer in Adult Nursing

Posted in 30 Years of NursingNursing