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Time for a rest after six decades of nursing

Monday, December 7, 2020

Time for a rest after six decades of nursing

To give you an idea just how long Issy Jackson has been a nurse, she started her training exactly three days before a certain near neighbour of ours lifted the World Cup…..

54 years on, Issy (72) is preparing to hang up her theatre scrubs for the very last time. Originally from Glasgow, Issy now lives in Banknock and has spent her entire career at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

“It really is a very special place; I’ve never wanted to work anywhere else. There’s just something about the place. I never cease to be amazed at the skill of the surgeons and the general team working and camaraderie is second to none. I can honestly say I have learned something new every day,” said Issy.

Due to her age, Issy spent the first few months of the pandemic self-isolating but has been back at work since August.

She said: “I am a theatre nurse and you need to be fit and very quick on your feet. I feel it’s time for me to retire as I’m slowing down a bit – I am 72 after all. I must have walked thousands of miles round the Royal over the years. In theatre you need to be quick to respond, so yes it is time for me to take a break now.”

The other remarkable thing about Issy is that she’s spent the last 30 years on nightshift. While it doesn’t agree with some people, she says it’s the opposite with her, with dayshift making her feel queasy.

Issy said: “It’s true, my body is so used to nightshift that on the odd occasion I do a dayshift, by about 4pm I can feel physically sick. It’s so strange. Even on days off or when I’m on leave I end up staying up half the night watching films because I am so used to being up.”

Issy has always worked in theatres, and mostly in emergency situations.
She said: “Being on nightshifts, there’s no elective work going on, but emergencies continue. It can be fractures, injuries from road accidents, appendicitis or even complete haemorrhage. All the unexpected procedures.

“I always knew that’s where I wanted to be. I felt I could give more to emergency work. When you think about it, the patient going for planned surgery has time to prepare, time to think. But the emergency patient is home or in the car one minute and the next they are with us, undergoing some emergency procedure and that’s scary. I really feel for that type of patient and decided to spend my career helping them in any way I could.

“The other great thing about working in emergency theatres is you have a fresh ‘inbox’ every day and you literally have no idea what you are coming in to.”

Working in emergency theatres also brings its challenges and Issy says it can often be tough.

“I’ve been on duty during some major incidents, such as the airport bombing and also in 1990 when a young man went on a shooting spree. I also remember a mining accident at Cardowan, when lots of miners were brought in. Some of the work can be heart-breaking and never leaves you.”

Issy remembers once chatting to an elderly man on the bus home and him telling her of his sadness that he had sons who he didn’t talk to. She thought nothing of it, but a few weeks later a man was in theatre and she recognised him.

Issy said: “Sadly the man died and the doctor looked at his notes and said it was a shame he had no next of kin. It was then that I recognised him from the bus just a few weeks before – and blurted out ‘No, this man has sons. I know him’. It was very strange indeed and made me feel I was meant to meet and chat to him.”

While there have been sad times, Issy maintains her career has been filled with friendship and laughter too.

She said: “From about four years old I knew I wanted to be a nurse. When I started my training I had known I wanted to work at the Royal. And I’ve never looked back and never once regretted that decision. There is such skill and dedication under this roof. I never cease to be amazed.

“I have made so many friends through nursing. People often say I don't sound 72. It must be my younger colleagues, hearing all their chat keeps me informed.”

NHSGGC’s North Director Isobel Neil said: “It is said that nursing is a vocation and not a job, and Issy is a wonderful example of that. What an amazing career she has had here and she will be truly missed.

“Issy is well known here for being a font of knowledge of all things Glasgow Royal Infirmary theatres and can tell great stories as she remembers every detail of what happened. She also has a wicked sense of humour and is tremendously kind.

“I have to agree with her when she says that the Royal is a very special place to work and we have lots of staff who have been here for many, many years.

“I want to sincerely thank her for her incredible dedication and wish her a long, healthy and happy retirement from everyone here at the Royal.”

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021