Destined to care

SINCE Sheelagh Drury can remember, she has always wanted to nurse people. Now a matron at the Ernest Gardiner Day Hospital in Letchworth GC, Sheelagh first started nursing when she was 18. She told The Comet: I have never wanted to do anything else. I s

SINCE Sheelagh Drury can remember, she has always wanted to nurse people.

Now a matron at the Ernest Gardiner Day Hospital in Letchworth GC, Sheelagh first started nursing when she was 18.

She told The Comet: "I have never wanted to do anything else.

"I started nursing a long time ago and in those days you made up your mind and that was it.

"I began in general nursing, moved into psychiatry, then taught psychiatry before becoming a clinical teacher in the general field.

"I then did an ITU (Intensive Treatment Unit) and coronary care course and went into ITU.

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"I became a senior clinical nurse at Lister for four years but left because they were amalgamating jobs there.

"I didn't like my job description because it didn't mention people and it didn't mention patients so I left eight years ago and started working at the day hospital. I have been here ever since.

"It's definitely been a different and colourful career."

The Ernest Gardiner Day Hospital was officially opened in 1984 and is the only hospital in Britain which is privately owned and privately run but provides free healthcare to NHS patients.

Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation owns and administrates the hospital to the tune of more than £250,000 a year.

Sheelagh said: "That pays for our wages, the upkeep of the building, the maintenance of the heating and the bills.

"Anything that is not attached to the wall is paid for by the League of Friends.

"We want for nothing. We have a very generous and incredibly hard working League of Friends. They have never refused expenditure for any single item that we have requested."

The League of Friends have bought all the medical equipment within the hospital along with computers, carpets, curtains, chairs and tables, as well as providing £70,000 for the purchase of an ambulance for the hospital.

The day hospital caters for between 16 and 18 patients a day, from Letchworth GC and Baldock, aged 50 plus.

The objectives of the hospital are to rehabilitate and assist patients in returning to as independent a life as possible in their own home following a stroke, fracture, fall, hospitalisation, pain associated with arthritis, or the loss of a loved one.

Facilities at the day hospital include occupational therapy, physiotherapy, hairdressing and chiropody services. A cooked lunch is also provided along with tea, coffee and cakes.

Admission to the day hospital is by referrals - predominantly from GPs.

Sheelagh said: "I have to say I never thought I would ever work in the more elderly environment. I didn't plan to stay but I absolutely love it.

"I love the people that I work with. There is a great retention of staff because everyone works as a team.

"Older people do feel that they have little or no worth and we get them to get their lives back.

"We show them how to get on or off the bed or how to get in or out of the bath.

"It's lovely when you can help them be their old selves again and give them their lives back. It's very satisfying.

"I sometimes have to pinch myself as to how good this place is and what it does. It's an immensely happy place."

When asked what she likes least about the job, Sheelagh said: "The one thing I least enjoy is when you have people who you can't do a huge amount for because they won't comply.

"People have to want to get well.

"We can go a long way to help everybody but we can't do it all."

When asked about future career aspirations, Sheelagh said: "I love counselling. If I wasn't in nursing then I would go into that.

"There is not enough help out there for people who need it in terms of bereavement and in terms of losing a loved one.

"I did a bereavement counselling session after my husband died.

"Just because I have had a bereavement doesn't mean I tackle it in the same way as anyone else.

"You have to accept that everyone deals with things differently and what they do is right because it's right for them."

To become a member of the League of Friends, or for more information, call 01462 670955.

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