The job of a nurse has changed so much

Maria Parry - International Nurses' Day 2017
Nurses Day 2017 - MariaParry

Maria Parry specialises in end-of-life and palliative care nursing. A nurse academic at USW, she also trains the next generation of students on our nursing degrees and palliative care course.

"This photo of me was taken around 1990. I had just started work in a community hospital at the top of the Rhondda, which was very old and said to be haunted.

I remember one of the staff nurses saying good morning to an empty space behind me. When I asked her who she was talking to, she said, quite matter of fact: 'Albert, of course!'

The mortuary was at the bottom of the hill and was kept cold from slats in the walls. Manual blood pressure machines and mercury thermometers were the norm, and hoists were relatively new.

Eileen Bailey, the Nursing Officer, used to patrol the wards checking that nurses were dressed appropriately. She was incredibly scary, and vigilant about hair being off the shoulders and hats being on at all times.

The hats were a nightmare to keep on your head. Mine was kept on with paperclips! Just before I qualified, I used to stash hats in various places across the ward in case they fell off, and Mrs Bailey appeared! I respected her hugely though as she would often roll up her sleeves and make beds - this was when we had sheets and bedspreads.

The job of a nurse has changed so much. The role is far bigger and more complex than it was when I started out, and today’s nurses need to have a wide range of skills and knowledge in order to give appropriate care.

If I were given one wish on Nurses' Day, it would be for patients to continue to be nursed by people who are not only competent but really care. The most important thing I ever learned was to treat people the way you would wish to be treated.

When I am teaching end-of-life sessions to nursing students, the thing they most often worry about is what to say. My advice is that as a nurse, often less is more and sometimes you just need to listen and be there."

Read our other Nurses' Day features