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Linda celebrates fifty years in nursing

In May 1971 Linda Potts embarked on her first day as a student nurse at the West Suffolk Hospital and has now marked 50 years’ service.

Linda, aged 68 from Bury St Edmunds, moved to the town in 1971 to start her registered general nurse (SRN) training at the West Suffolk Hospital after a two-year college pre-nursing course.

She said: “I only did that because at a school careers event my best friend put her hand up when they got to nursing so I did too – looking back it was providence and I made the right choice!”

Her varied posts at the acute hospital included staff nurse in recovery; a stint on F2 which was then ear, nose, throat and eyes; day and emergency ward; sister on surgical ward F5; night sister and clinical duty manager. She also worked at Newmarket Community Hospital for a year. Linda now works 23 hours a week on night duty as a staff nurse on the King Suite, but during the pandemic has been covering shifts, doing an extra 90 hours in March 2021.

Looking back to the start of her career, the mother of two and grandmother to three said: “After eight weeks of study at the hospital, we students were let loose on the wards and that’s where we stayed. We had a booklet where competencies were signed off as we went along, and by the third year would be in charge of a ward at night.”

Uniforms were dresses only, with caps and a belt complete with silver buckle once qualified. “I still have my belt with its buckle,” said Linda. “Like a lot of people my parents bought it for me when I qualified, it was a statement.”

Being part of five decades of medical progress had been very interesting, she said. “It’s amazing how much more we can do for people. After a hip fracture, patients would stay in hospital for six weeks in traction – now they can be discharged in days. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have made such a difference, it has been good to be a part of it all. I am proud I have done 50 years.”

King Suite is a very different environment, she said. “Our focus is on rehabilitation and helping people achieve the independence to be able to go home and be safe. The therapists work with them during the day, and at night we mimic the conditions they will have at home – for example, making sure they can use the equipment they will need.”

King Suite manager Charlotte King said: “Linda is a much-valued colleague and all of us at Glastonbury Court are delighted to celebrate her 50 years with the NHS. The work we do here supports patients to go home and live the best life they can, with as much independence as possible. We rely on the skills and compassion of professionals like Linda to achieve that, and she makes a real difference to the people in our care.”

Chief executive Steve Dunn said: “Linda’s 50 years of loyal service to the West Suffolk community and the NHS is a remarkable achievement, and I would like to offer her warm congratulations on behalf of the Trust. Linda is one of those people who make the NHS the treasured service that it is, someone who has dedicated her working life to caring for others. Like so many of our staff she has gone the extra mile during the pandemic to support both patients and colleagues, and that is so much appreciated.”

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