A nurse is celebrating four decades of caring for the people of Thanet – all of them on the same ward at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.
Karen Hudson, 58, estimates she has nursed thousands of people so far in her career, and she has no plans to hang up her uniform just yet.
Karen is a senior sister on the acute medical unit at the QEQM, which was known as Hicks ward when she started. In her time on the ward it has had several different specialities, including cardiology, diabetes and skin conditions, and the team currently care for patients referred from the emergency department or as emergency cases from GPs.
The mum and grandmother said: “There was nothing else I wanted to do when I left school and I have loved working with the team and looking after the patients.
“I have seen a lot of colleagues rise up through the ranks and develop their careers in management. But I like looking after the patients, and I never wanted to go for a higher role that would take me further away from the patients.
“Being in an office would be my worst nightmare!”
Karen, who lives in Rainham, remembers her first day of nursing training, when her parents dropped her off at the nurses’ home at the Royal Seabathing Hospital.
Training took place in the hospital, and Karen had to wear a cap and a cape, and observe the hierarchy of the wards.
She said: “The matrons were very strict. I remember they would come on to the ward and run their finger along surfaces to look for dirt.
“We were always nervous and made sure our cleaning was up to scratch – you definitely didn’t want to get told off!”
Her own health issues, including a cancer diagnosis 22 years ago, made her more determined to live life to the full and gave her a new outlook.
Karen said: “I look at life totally differently now and take each day as it comes.
“Everything I have ever done has been for my family and that is still my focus.
“But my work family is at the hospital and being part of the team and caring for the patients are the best parts of my job.
“The Covid pandemic is something we will never forget; and how we all pulled together to get through it.
“We lost a colleague which was incredibly difficult. There were a lot of tears and a lot of hugs during that time.”
Karen’s colleagues celebrated her milestone with a surprise party on the ward, attended by her family and several former workmates.
She said: “It was a lovely surprise and I had no idea they were planning something like that.
“I plan to be around for a few more years yet. A lot has changed since I first started but the job is still the same and it’s a privilege to be able to care for people and their families.
“We worked out I must have looked after thousands during my career so far and I am sure there will be many more to come.”