Not working ‘might be fun’

1 February 2013

The alarm goes off at 5am, and not long after, Margaret Woodcock is taking the brisk 20-minute walk to the train station to catch the 6am train to work.

At the end of her day as nurse manager for Hutt Valley District Health Board’s district nursing team, she repeats the commute to return to her home in the Wairarapa.

The 66-year-old grandmother says her daughters think she is mad and should retire. Her husband of 40 years, now working casually himself, is pretty keen now too, though she says that he has never “grizzled” about her commitment to nursing.

But the dedicated nurse admits she is now “on the wobble” and starting to think “it might be fun” not to work.

“I do want to spend more time with my grandchildren. I want to contribute to them so that I’m not just the Nana who is always working.”

Then there is her garden and other interests that this busy woman wants to spend more time on. She and her husband are also keen to travel more, with Egypt top of the list.

She started her training in Wellington Hospital in 1964 in the days when some sisters ruled their ward like tyrants and “huge numbers” dropped out in the first three months, leaving just the dedicated and the hardy.

Asked why she is still nursing nearly 50 years on, she says that she views nursing as a privilege, particularly her long career in rehabilitation and district nursing. She only left hands-on nursing five years ago.

“It’s something to do with public worth – being part of someone’s life to help meet their health needs and to encourage and nurture them to be independent again.”

She now works full-time managing a district nursing team to help do just that, including some nurses approaching her age.

What she personally finds most challenging is not her age but the current nationwide climate for health.

“The pressures on the health system are enormous. We’re in a climate when financial issues are always at the forefront. I genuinely enjoy what I do but I find it quite hard and stressful.”

Having rarely taken sick leave, the usually fit and healthy nurse was thrown last year by getting pneumonia and being forced to take an unprecedented two weeks off.

She is also conscious of being in the age group when contemporaries are getting sick and facing diagnoses that may be fatal.

The couple definitely now have a retirement age in sight but just have a few household projects they are keen to tick off before Margaret throws away her alarm clock at last and books that airfare to Cairo.