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07 March 2018
Receiving an MBE from the Queen for ‘Services to Healthcare and Patients’ was one of the highlights of Janet Graham’s 51 years in the NHS. “I had taken my sisters and husband with me to Buckingham Palace and had practiced my curtsy and how to receive the MBE, with palace officials before the Queen arrived…but I was still extremely nervous,” said Janet.
Janet’s journey in the NHS started on 1 May 1967 when she commenced three years of training as a student nurse at Luton and Dunstable (L&D) Hospital Trust, where she spent the next 48 years of her nursing career. During that time she worked her way up through the ranks of the NHS from trainee nurse to Deputy Director of Nursing, starting and ending her career in patient care, the role she loved most.
Janet speaks fondly about the years she dedicated to the NHS: “It’s amazing to think how technology, treatments and medicines have advanced since the days when I started in the NHS. Even the nurse training is completely different now”. She continued: “When I was a trainee we all stayed in accommodation on-site. If we wanted to go out in the evening and stay out past 10.30pm we had to ask Matron’s permission and request a special pass. But now you wouldn’t dream of staying on-site, and to qualify you must have a degree as well as a nursing qualification”. Janet laughed: “Can you imagine the kind of response you would get if you told someone that they weren’t allowed to go out and stay out after 10.30pm nowadays?”
As well as becoming a trainee nurse, and receiving her MBE from the Queen ( whom Janet recalls as being ‘surprisingly fast on her feet’), there is another important heart-felt highlight of Janet’s career, when she received her letter to say that she had successfully passed her training to become a State Registered Nurse (RN). Giving up that registration when she retired 48 years later proved to be the most difficult part of Janet’s career too – after all, she had worked hard to qualify and to maintain her skills over the years, and she found it really hard to no longer be able to write the initials ‘RN’ after her name.
Janet also confessed that she thinks the people of Luton are lucky to have the best performing A&E department in the country right on their doorstep, compared with her friends in America and South Africa who find funding their own health care a real financial strain. For her, the most wonderful thing about the NHS is that the health care is outstanding and free, and that patients are treated equally whether they are three years-old or 93.
Reflecting on her 51 years of working for the NHS, Janet admits: “I never wanted to work anywhere else but the L&D. Never a day went by when I didn’t want to come to work. There were obviously ups and downs over the years, but I loved the job and I loved caring for patients.
“Even now I love being at the L&D. I didn’t even leave the hospital when I retired. Instead, I became a volunteer looking after and cataloguing the L&D archives with my husband John and working with the Patient Experience team, to obtain feedback from patients”.
She is also a governor at the Trust representing the volunteers and is a patient ambassador regularly giving presentations on the history of the hospital.
“I have worked with some extraordinary people in an amazing hospital and that is what kept me going all this time. I can’t imagine life without the L&D.”
If you would like to share your story of what the NHS means to you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org