Taking each year as it comes

1 February 2013

Reluctant to miss out on her OE, Carolyn Sengelow headed off to London to nurse nearly 40 years after starting her nursing training.

Apart from that year or two nursing in London (and short breaks to have her two sons), she has been nursing at Timaru Hospital since 1965 and has no plans to retire soon.

To mark her recent 65th birthday she did cut down from four to three shifts a week at Timaru’s 40-bed surgical ward. But as long as she keeps loving her job and is able to do it competently, she intends to keep nursing.

“I would hate to think I was a burden and my peers to feel they have to carry me, but I’m fit and healthy and have no real health issues.”

In fact she squeezes in tennis and her role as an Anglican deacon around her rotating shift work – and yes, that does include night shifts.

She also keeps abreast with professional development on-duty and off. Her post-OE decision to return to her passion of hands-on nursing, following a range of nurse education and clinical leadership roles, has resulted in her not shying away from seeking extra responsibilities.

In fact, to fit with her philosophy of continuing to give to the profession she loves, she is a preceptor for new graduates and also the resource nurse for ENTO (ear, nose, throat, and ophthalmology), the resource nurse for the Liverpool Pathway, the IV therapy link nurse, a member of the new graduate advisory committee, and the co-coordinator for the South Island cancer nurse network lectures. She also fills in for the charge nurse manager when he’s on leave.

“I don’t think there’s any excuse as a mature nurse (to think) you are not of value – you still have plenty to offer. I think my worst nightmare would be that I wasn’t pulling my weight on the ward.”

Widowed and on her own since 1996, she says finance has also played a part in her career’s longevity. With one son and grandchildren in London, she likes to retain the financial independence to visit them regularly.

“It would be pretty tough if that was all you were nursing for. I don’t think you could just work for financial rewards these days. I think you’ve got to have a passion for nursing to stay in the workforce because it isn’t easy.”

Carolyn is encouraging of nurses contemplating following her in taking a ‘belated’ working holiday in their 50s.

“I thought it would be sad not to have nursed anywhere else than Timaru Hospital….and it was great. I thoroughly recommend it.”

NB See also main article: Is 60 the new 50