47 years as a nurse


It takes dedication to be a nurse and a great deal of care and compassion are essential too. To be a successful nurse and get satisfaction from what you do requires caring, and caring defines everything a nurse does day in and day out. It isn’t a job, it is a calling. Nurses go the extra mile and it counts.

Lorraine Parsons has just retired after 47 years in the profession. That is a great deal of caring.

When did you become a nurse?
I was 17 when I started my career as a nurse. I enrolled as a pre-nursing student. It was a residential course and at that age we were under close supervision and it was rather like being at a boarding school. I started my training proper the following year when I was 18. We all trained as general nurses and then you could choose to specialise after qualification but the advent of nurse practitioners as we know them now, was much later.

I started my career in the NHS and worked in St Helen’s Hospital in Hastings. I had a career break following the birth of my second daughter when it was no longer practical for me to continue working. I enjoyed being a mum but decided to return to nursing in the 90s. I took up a post in an independent hospital as there were no job vacancies at the recently opened Conquest in Hastings. Nurse retention and recruitment wasn’t the issue it is now. I had to undertake a mandatory return to practice course.

What further training did you undertake?
Nurse training is ongoing. There were many study days to support continued practice, some of which are mandatory. I qualified to work as a mentor to student nurses and apart from my nursing qualification this is the skill that has brought most reward and joy. I think possibly the toughest training came in 2020 when most acute private hospitals were seconded to the NHS to support them during the pandemic. We were entering the unknown so had to be prepared for the very worst challenges that we might meet. I sat in a room of experienced nurses all of whom had seen tough times and we sat in stunned silence when we realised what might lay ahead.

What are the biggest changes that you have seen in the 47 years?
Many changes have taken place. When I trained we were trained in hospitals to registration / diploma level but in 2009 it became a degree based profession.

What skills and key attributes have you instilled in those that you mentored?
I have worked with student nurses as a mentor for some years and I always endeavoured to make my students aware of the importance of being a “hands-on nurse” as I think the academic pressure on the students can be overwhelming. It is important that as nurses we remember that the difference we can make in caring for our patients cannot be learned entirely from a textbook.

How have things changed?
Things are more relaxed now in many ways. As a young nurse I was only ever known by my surname and qualified staff were addressed only by their title. The rules were very strict about our appearance and we even had the length of our fingernails checked quite often.

What advice would you give to a new aspiring nurse?
The advice I would give to someone starting a nursing career would be to always remember what it is to be a nurse. Be thankful for the privilege of caring for and supporting people at their most vulnerable. It is a job that needs to be taken very seriously but it is essential to try to have fun sometimes, with the patients and with each other and to always support and find support in your team.

What will you not miss and miss now you have retired?
The thing I will not miss are the 12 .5 hour shifts on my poor old legs and not having to plan my life around a rota. The three things I will miss are the wonderful people I have worked with over the years, the student nurses who have kept me on my toes and lastly the joy of making a difference to a patient’s experience.

What will retirement bring for you?

a handful of grandchildren

Retirement is going to be busy. I have a wonderful family and five grandchildren to spend time with, fabulous friends to visit and I will be volunteering at the Rye Heritage Centre. My husband Simon, who is manager there, has already found me extra jobs to do. And of course KT, you know about my love of singing shanties with Martin’s “crew at Rye Harbour.” I really enjoy it. The future beckons and my only worry is not having enough time to do everything that is on my bucket list.

Image Credits: Kt Bruce , Lorraine Parsons .

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  1. Well, done Lorraine! Congratulations on retirement which I know must come with mix feelings.
    I have nothing but admiration for nurses, my wife being a retired nurse and one of our daughters following her mum’s footsteps.

    Long chaotic hours snatching a break when time allows. Don’t start me on the extra 30 minutes for your break which you rarely got, one of my rants as a Trade Unionist!


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