Here is the next instalment of our series: In Conversation With…Diane Webber, staff nurse on our Intensive Care Unit (ITU).
Diane (68) lives in Romford, and has two sons, Andrew, 38, who works in insurance and finance, and Simon, 32, who followed her into nursing. She also has a grandson Jack, four. She is pictured below at Oldchurch Hospital when she first started her training.
Diane has been in nursing for 50 years and recently helped organise a reunion of 13 nurses who all started their training together at Oldchurch Hospital in 1969, including Margo McFarlane, who also still works at King George – amazing!
After 50 years at our Trust, we’d love to hear about your career with us…
My first role was on a surgical ward; then I worked on a medical ward. I was only around 18 or 19 and working nights – l learned fast!
I also did a secondment to the London Chest Hospital to do cardiac training, which was something different.
One of my longest jobs here was matron on ITU. I did that for 23 years. I started working in intensive care by accident as the hours suited me after I had my first son, but I loved it and have stayed there ever since.
I also went to the Philippines in 2001 as part of a recruitment drive. We were there 10 days and had one day off. They all wanted to come over and we were doing interviews all day in the hotel basement. We recruited lots of new nurses and some are still here now.
I retired when I was 68 and I’m now a bank nurse. I do one long 13-hour shift a week.
What was it like when you first started training at Oldchurch Hospital?
I was really excited to start my training and I loved it. We had an eight week induction on the wards and our tutor was very strict.
It was very different then. We all lived on site and I remember spending the first weekend before I started in the training room trying to learn how to make a hospital bed properly and thinking I’d never be able to do it.
We were meant to be home by 10pm each night, unless we got a pass allowing us to stay out until 11pm (and you were only allowed two of them a month). But we got round it, some nurses on the ground floor would leave their windows open for us to climb in when we came back late!
The equipment has changed a lot over the years, it’s much better now. I remember using the East Radcliffe ventilators which you had to wind up when they wouldn’t work.
One of the reasons I like to keep working is because you’re always learning new things: new equipment, new processes, and I think that’s really good for the brain.
Pictured below is Diane with colleague Margo who also still works at our Trust, reminiscing over old pictures at their recent reunion
What’s kept you at our Trust for 50 years?
I love the people, patients and staff. Our staff are so supportive, we’ve got sisters on ITU who have been with us for 20, 30 years.
I really enjoy working on ITU. You’re looking after very sick patients so I like to be able to support the families. I’ve got a lot of experience at that. It’s great to see very sick patients get better, I love it when they come back and visit and they’re completely transformed.
You were part of the team which moved from Oldchurch to Queen’s Hospital over a decade ago, what was that like?
I was really keen to be involved in that. It took three years of planning. They’d said that ITU beds had to be empty to move – there was no way that was going to happen!
We moved 35 patients. They were all on ventilators so we needed a separate ambulance to move each one. We were moving a patient every 15 minutes.
It was December so it was really cold and we were under pressure to do it before it got dark. We planned to move them all between 8am to 4pm but we had all 35 in Queen’s by 2pm.
It was hectic and I was running between ITU and the neuro ward but we were all really excited to be moving into a new hospital. I loved being part of it and thought it went really well.
It did take a while to get used to it though, with new equipment and finding where everything was.
You must be proud your son Simon has followed you into nursing?
Very proud. He trained at our Trust so it was very funny if we were both on shift together. He’s a matron at Southend Hospital now. He’s made matron at only 32, I was 45 when I got there.
At first I wasn’t sure I wanted him to go into nursing, but I’m pleased he’s done so well.
Did you always want to be a nurse?
Absolutely, right from childhood my mum said I would be a nurse. I got a nurses’ uniform for Christmas and that was it. I love caring for people.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to play tennis. I go twice a week with Gidea Park Tennis Club to keep fit as I hate the gym. I play in all weathers.
I like to garden. I have a big garden that keeps me busy. And baking, I’m known for bringing cakes into work and they sometimes get very disappointed if I come in empty handed!
I also love to travel, I like to visit new places. I’ve been to Sri Lanka to watch the cricket, New York, Boston, Florida and I often go to Spain. I’ve got a trip to France planned next month.