Publish date: 05 July 2024

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Today, the NHS marks its 76th birthday. This year, Jackie Turner, clinical nurse specialist, is also celebrating an incredible milestone – 50 years’ service in the NHS. 

Jackie started her training in 1974 at UCLH’s legacy hospital – the former Middlesex Hospital London. 

“Nursing was very different then. Most of your training was done on-the-job within the hospital. You alternated between a 12-week block at the School of Nursing 10 weeks on the wards. You also had to live in the nurse's accommodation for the first year, in Cleveland Street, where John Astor House is now.” 

Following her training, Jackie worked in various roles across London before returning to UCLH as a fracture clinic sister for more than 20 years. Jackie has now been a clinical nurse specialist here for the past 12 years, treating post-operative patients with a range of hand conditions. 

As well as the physical hospital buildings, much has changed about the profession itself during Jackie’s career. “I applied to the Middlesex Hospital and Charing Cross because the other London hospitals had height limits! Then, you had to be over five foot two, can you believe that? I’m five foot, so not far off.” 

Reflecting on the differences between nursing then and now, she said: "It was very different. We had to wear traditional uniforms with caps and aprons compared to our modern uniforms now. There’s also been the shift to digital technology, whereas before computers and smart devices it was all paper notes and memorisation!” 

Over time, the workforce itself has changed too. “Nursing has really opened up a lot. When I started there was only one male nurse – can you imagine? There are far more career opportunities in nursing now, including more specialised and advanced nursing and leadership roles. Nurses also have more autonomy, enabling them to make decisions, conduct medical assessments and prescribe medicines.” 

With a career spanning five decades, Jackie has experienced a lot of memorable moments, some positive and some serious. "I remember the London bombings in 2005. As a major incident response centre, we had patients coming directly into this building. It was very scary; they were all in shock, as were we. That stays with you. 

“I’ve also met quite a few famous visitors: royals, actors, comedians, name a few!” 

Over Jackie’s career, she’s never stopped learning and takes pride in the new skills and experiences she has accumulated. “I did a degree in my early 50s – I'm proud of that. It felt harder to be studying again, 30 years after my original training, but I am pleased I did it.

"It's a privilege to work with such great people and, of course, our patients. I think you learn so much about people, everyone's so different. That's why I love working in a clinic, because everyone's completely diverse in every way. I never really considered anything else." 

Vanessa Sweeney, chief nurse, said “Jackie embodies the spirit and values of UCLH and of nursing as a profession. It’s evident from her remarkable career that her enthusiasm, dedication and knowledge has helped many people, and will inspire many more.” 

David Probert, chief executive, said “It makes me immensely proud to hear Jackie’s story, and of the commitment and compassion she brings to her role. Her wealth of expertise and skill is a credit to UCLH, and I would like to congratulate her on this incredible milestone.”