Somerset nurse celebrates an incredible 50 years working at Yeovil Hospital

Senior emergency department sister Pat Wilcox outside Yeovil Hospital. Credit: Yeovil Hospital

A Somerset nurse is celebrating working at Yeovil District Hospital for 50 years.

Senior emergency department sister Pat Wilcox helped move beds to the new hospital in 1973 when she first began her NHS career at the age of 18.

Since then she has dedicated half a century to help take care of people in Yeovil and the surrounding areas, working mostly in the emergency department.

At the beginning of her career she was a member of the team that helped clean and move the beds and equipment from the old Yeovil General Hospital.

Now, 50 years later, she says she can "still remember it very clearly".

Pat said: "I had only worked there for six weeks and had got very good at making hospital beds so when we moved from the old building to the new one, I helped clean equipment and then made up every bed in the new hospital - well, it felt like every bed.

"I did all my training at Yeovil and qualified in 1976, having had to delay due to having my tonsils out. My first role as a trained nurse was nights in theatre and relief work in A&E for six months, but I loved my time in casualty so quickly moved permanently and haven’t looked back.

Pat pictured at Yeovil Hospital during the start of her career. Credit: Yeovil Hospital

"In 1978, after the birth of my first child, I received a call from the matron asking if I was bored yet and did I want to come back. I said yes, I’d love to be back in the emergency team, but she offered me ICU and I gave it a go.

"It wasn’t for me – too much machinery to clean. I remember them handing me the cleaning cloth for the ventilator alongside a screwdriver.

"It’s not something the ICU nurses do now, but technology and job roles have hugely changed. I stayed in ICU for three months but moved back to the emergency department as soon as possible."

During her time at the hospital, Pat has seen many changes. She said: "There are so many memories, but it really is the people who have made it the place it is. What I’ve enjoyed the most is seeing the town and the department grow and evolve. I know things are challenging right now in healthcare, but I have every faith we will find a way through.

"When I started, the emergency department had one trained nurse, and health care assistant and one doctor. We locked the door at night for security and patients had to knock to be let in.

"You can’t imagine that now. The changes have been fascinating with so much technology.

"The way we can treat different conditions is absolutely amazing but needs many more medical staff than we have 40 to 50 years ago. Back then, we would wash bandages and I remember rolling them back up once they were clean.

"One of my favourite memories that sums up a day in A&E is the time we heard a huge bang and looked up to see a man with a huge plank of wood being chased around the department and out. We just laughed and carried on with our day – I love the unusual things where no day is the same and it’s fast-paced. It’s kept me young."

Pat has seen many changes to healthcare whilst working at the hospital. Credit: Yeovil Hospital

Pat recollects the huge fundraising effort the team undertook in the 1980s to buy the department new cardiac monitoring equipment.

She said: "Looking back, that was such as fantastic effort by everyone. We launched the fundraising with MP Paddy Ashdown and spent the year getting involved in everything - baby competitions, performed a show at the Octagon, held a race night at the football club, so many car boots and fairs. We raised more than £100,000 and it really was a whole team effort."

Chief nurse Hayley Peters said: "50 years of dedication to Yeovil Hospital is absolutely amazing. I am extremely proud of Pat for her outstanding contribution to nursing – a truly inspirational and much loved member of the team. On behalf of all of us here, I would like to thank Pat wholeheartedly as we mark this special anniversary."

But Pat says she’s not ready to slow down.

She said: "There have been so many changes over the years but I’ve loved every single day – the unpredictability, the patients and the colleagues – the people really make it what it is. I always said that the day I didn’t enjoy it would be the day I leave… but I’m still here.

"I did retire eight years ago but came back after two weeks. I will retire properly at some point and give more of my time to my family, but not quite yet."

Pat lives with her husband, Bernie, and has three daughters, one son, five granddaughters and two step-granddaughters.