NHS 70 stories - Jenny's been involved with the NHS for much of its 70 years

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Jenny Beckingsale has been involved with the NHS since she started her nurse training at St George’s Hospital in London in 1955 – and 63 years on she is still supporting the health Jenny first joined the NHS in 1955 when she started her nurse training and is now a volunteer at Southmead Hospital service through her volunteering role as one of the Move Makers at Southmead Hospital.

“Back when we started training we didn’t realise the health service had just started, we didn’t have any history given to us until I undertook community experience,” Jenny said.

“What we did as student nurses was wonderful, there was such a camaraderie between us and we had a good training.

“We are now all in our 80s but we still have a group of us that meet up - we’ve been doing that since the 50th year of the NHS.”

She added: “Our nurses’ home wasn’t at the hospital. We had a uniform and an outdoor uniform. We had coats and berets and had to move around.

“We would get one day off and could sign a book to have breakfast in bed the next day, which was really unusual, even in those days.

Looking back at her early nursing, Jenny said: “There were no Intensive Care Units then so if people were very unwell they would be specialled.
“IV fluids and blood were stored in glass bottles with rubber tubing as there was no plastic.

“We had a sterilising department where instruments were sterilised in boiling water, which meant we had to check the needles before using them to be sure they did not have a hook on the.

“There were no scans or defibrillators and pathology was only developing, although fast.

“There were infectious diseases back in the mid-50s and there were good infection control measures, with the emphasis on washing hands and using forceps for everything.

“On the wards back then you had longer to get to know your patients. They were in for 14 days whereas it is obviously different today.”

Jenny came to Southmead Hospital for her midwifery training as part of a group of eight nurses from London.

“We did the things you read about in books - climbing out of windows etc,” she said.

“Later two of us went to the BRI and were the first non-Bristol trained nurses they ever had, or so they told us, we were oddities to them!”

Jenny went on to work in accident and emergency, an area of nursing she enjoyed and then she went to Canada where she was also involved in A&E nursing.

She said: “When I came back from Canada I went into the community, which gave you some freedom. I found it very rewarding.”

Jenny worked in district nursing and health visiting and then went on to become head of training and development at the Bristol city centre hospitals.

“I enjoyed training the student nurses from all the three local hospitals at the BRI.

“I started a school nurse programme and return to practise.”

Looking back at her career, Jenny said: I had a very diverse career.  I loved it all, but in the end, teaching was my passion.

“I’m a people person and like trying to empower people to do things for themselves.”