Published: 13:04, 07 June 2018
| Updated: 14:03, 07 June 2018
Margaret Stevens was just 50 days old when the NHS came into being.
Now, 70 years later and just days after her birthday she has finally hung up her nurse's uniform after 53 years of service.
Speaking this week at Gravesham's Civic Centre, her base for the last 16 years of her career, she said she wouldn't change a minute.
From the age of six Margaret, originally from Charlton but now living in Gillingham, was determined to be a nurse and stayed firm despite her teachers at grammar school urging her to pursue a career as a doctor.
She went on to serve at six hospitals, including a spell at Medway Maritime where she became A block's first sister, and a variety of other sites, including Rochester's Friston House where she was the manager from 1994 when it opened until 2000.
Since 2002 she has worked for NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG and NHS Swale CCG's continuing healthcare team, which looks after people suffering ongoing health issues outside of hospital.
She said: "I worked as a midwife for a bit and delivered 12 babies and I've also had experience in A&E and orthopaedics [she started her career at Bristol's Winford Orthopaedic Hospital on August 26, 1965] but I always wanted to work with old people. It's just so rewarding and I've been lucky enough to do that for the past 16 years.
"One thing I do miss which had changed about the NHS for better and worse is how well you used to get to know patients and their families because it used to be common for some people to be in hospital for three months whereas now things have moved on.
"This role has allowed me to get to know the patients well and I think it's honestly been my favourite job."
She added: "The service has grown massively since I started and so have people's perceptions of the care they can receive. There's no doubt people are surviving now who previously would not have due to the improvement in care."
Despite already working for 15 years longer than she had to grandmother-of-five Margaret has no plans of resting any time soon, with a family holiday to Devon featuring 15 people and two dogs on the horizon and plenty of hobbies she's sure to have an eventful retirement.
But on top of that she wants to continue to volunteer for causes which help the elderly.
Reminiscing on a career which has seen her treat tens of thousands of patients she said: “I can remember names of people who I looked after all those years ago, and their families. I remember the first time a young patient of mine died, an 18-year-old with leukaemia, and I cried with his family. I had cared for him for many weeks and these memories stay with you forever.
“Being able to work until I am 70 has been really good, but I know that now is the time to finish. I’m very proud of the fact that I can still give valuable contributions after 50 years. Over and above, I owe a lot to the team I’ve just left. I’m proud of the people I worked with.”
And after such a rewarding career and in the NHS' 70th year Margaret hopes young people will continue to follow in her footsteps.
She said: “It’s our duty to encourage new people to join the NHS — people who will endeavour to keep patients at the heart of our work. One thing that we should never lose is to listen to the person we’re caring for and to give the right training to staff to be able to do the best they can. That is what the NHS was set up to do.”
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