Sixty Years a Nurse by Mary Hazard

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Sixty Years a Nurse by Mary Hazard

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A retired NHS nurse looks back fondly on her career highs and lows.
Buy? yes Borrow? yes
Pages: 304 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Harper Elemement
ISBN: 9780008118372

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Sixty Years a Nurse is the remarkable true story of Mary Hazard, who travelled from Ireland as a naïve teenager in 1952 to start life as a nurse in an NHS hospital. From a strict Catholic background, Mary's lifestyle choice had alienated her family, her mother in particular, who viewed the whole decision as doomed to failure. However, Mary proved her mother wrong and went on to become one of the longest serving nurses in the NHS with an interesting and varied career.

Given Mary's self-deprecating description of herself, it seems surprising that she chose nursing as her vocation. She describes herself as having fumbling fingers and even found it difficult to put together her nurse's hat, which required delicate folding each day. As a result, she recalls many humorous but hair-raising encounters with patients, including the unfortunate recipient of her first injection and dead man's body with a catheter that she had trouble removing...

The Carry On-style humour adds a light touch to the book, which has its fair share of dark moments too. Back in those days, nurses had to witness a post-mortem as part of their training and Mary doesn't hold back with her grisly description of events. There are also several harrowing stories of suffering and death, including a heartbreaking account of an unwanted baby (the result of the rape of an African chief's daughter by a soldier), forcibly removed from the mother and left to die on a hospital draining board.

As we read, we see how Mary develops from a wide-eyed innocent teenager into a fully-fledged nurse; fully aware of the dark side of the medical profession. Despite this, it is clear that Mary never lost her caring side and treated her patients with love, kindness and compassion, unlike the cold Matrons and senior hospital staff of the day. Her dedication to her job and those she served give the reader the impression that she truly loved her work and never underestimated the value of what she did and the impact that it had on others.

It was a pleasure and privilege to read about Mary Hazard's life and I hope that she inspires future nurses to emulate her caring example. Her story shows how the NHS has changed over the years and even though she is now retired, she still works hard campaigning for better hygiene standards in hospitals and is a well known figure in her local community. I thank the publishers for my review copy, which I have been avidly recommending to anyone who will listen to me.

Readers may also enjoy The Locked Ward by Dennis O'Donnell, an absorbing account about working in the Mental Health department of a Scottish hospital.

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