North Staffordshire's longest-serving nurse Christine Sellars clocks off after 52 years
GRANDMOTHER Christine Sellars has completed her last hospital shift – and bowed out as North Staffordshire's longest-serving nurse.
She spent her entire 52 years at the same hospital and worked permanent nights for nearly half a century and latterly treated heart patients.
But Christine's career nearly ended before it began in October 1960 when the sister interviewing her questioned whether she was too small for the job.
She recalls: "I went with my mum who had been a nurse in London.
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"I'm under five feet and the sister thought I would have trouble reaching up to open cupboards – but she was put right by mum who's just as small."
Mother-of-four Christine, aged 69, of Princes Road, Hartshill, lives yards from her job at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire where she has spent all but a few months at the Royal Infirmary site.
As she said farewell to colleagues on heart ward 223 she told of the huge differences she has seen in the profession.
Starting as a 17-year-old pre-nursing student and then training for the state-enrolled qualification, like all her generation she spent her first three years at the nurses' home.
It was a monastic life with a strict curfew of 11pm.
She said: "Depending who was on the door if you were a few minutes late back from a night out, it would be locked and you would be reported to matron for a severe carpeting.
"Boyfriends could come no further than a small greeting room with a couple of chairs – there's no way they were allowed into our rooms or even our communal sitting room.
"My son, Tim, went on to marry a nurse and was allowed to come and go at the home almost at will when they were going out. That's something my late husband, Bernard, would always laugh about as he could never get his foot over the doorstep."
Christine and Bernard even called in on the wards on their wedding day.
Christine, who has three grandchildren, also recalls arriving on orthopaedic ward six in July 1965 for her first day as a staff nurse.
"There had been a dreadful crash in Newcastle earlier that day when a car went into Woolworth's in Newcastle and 15 casualties were on the ward," she said.
"Two later died so it was a rude awakening but it made me learn to be prepared for anything."
She admits when she began her training she had no idea how to make a bed or which way round a bed pan went. But she later spent years as part of a team touring wards to administer intravenous injections and covered just about every department.
She also helped start the Infirmary's five-bed intensive care unit where one day she found herself furiously pumping bellows on a primitive ventilator to keep a crash victim alive after both the electric supply and back-up battery had failed.
Christine has spent her last 24 years in the heart and lung surgical ward and until recently would volunteer to counsel patients on her days off.
She gained personal experience of the illnesses because her ambulance driver husband had several heart attacks and cardiac surgery before his death five years ago.
Ward sister Jackie Tideswell, who was mentored by Christine, said: "What she doesn't know about the job isn't worth knowing.
"The staff love listening to her tales of how things used to be and she will be very badly missed."