• Tue. May 21st, 2024

Old Radcliffe Infirmary nurses reunite for the last time


Sep 13, 2022

“However much things change, the desire to help the sick has always stayed the same” says retired nurse of the old Radcliffe infirmary.

Thelma Sanders, 79, is one of a group of nurses who worked at the former Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford in the 1960s who will be heading back to the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter for a reunion tomorrow (Wednesday, September 13).

The former nurses, most of whom are now in their late 70s and 80s, will be travelling from as far afield as Australia, Scotland and Manchester to meet for what Ms Sanders said will likely be “the last time.”

The group will be looking at the commemorative plaque honouring doctors, nurses and all who cared for the sick in the Radcliffe Infirmary from 1770 to 2007.

Ms Sanders initiated the placement of the plaque, which was installed on the front wall of the former Radcliffe Infirmary in 2020.

She said: “Myself and the other nurses have kept in touch and remained close friends for over sixty years.

“We started our training at the old Radcliffe Infirmary, which has now moved up the hill to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

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Speaking on how the profession has changed since she was working, Ms Sanders said: “I’ve worked with clever professors, cooks, surgeons, nurses and more, and all that time I had the feeling these were people who wanted to care for the sick.

“They had a love for people, and a stirring feeling to make them feel better.

“Things change all the time, systems change, but the meaning of caring for the sick doesn’t change.

“However different things are that stays the same.”

Ms Sanders went on to share some of her history and a few stories from her career as a nurse.

She said: “I knew I wanted to be a nurse from a young age because my mother was a nurse.

“She worked in the 1930s, having trained in Ipswich in Suffolk.

“Following in my mother’s footsteps I nursed for over 50 years – I was a senior nursing officer in the Royal Navy, prior to that I worked in the merchant navy as a ship’s nurse.

“I used to travel from Southampton to South Africa on the RMS Windsor Castle, and before that I worked in Cape Town, where I met Professor Barnard – the first ever surgeon to do a heart transplant.

“I’ve also met the nurse who gave the first ever penicillin injection, at Radcliffe Infirmary in 1943.”

Ms Sanders is a member of the Radcliffe Guild of Nurses – established in 1925 to unite all those who had undertaken their nurse training at the Radcliffe Infirmary.

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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1

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