Award-winning nurse retires after almost seven decades in the profession

Aileen Coomber, RCNi’s 2017 Bank Nurse award winner, was part of the NHS at 70 celebrations

Aileen Coomber, RCNi’s 2017 Bank Nurse award winner, was part of the NHS 70th anniversary celebrations

Aileen Coomber. Picture: Nathan Clarke

A mental health nurse who has dedicated nearly seven decades to her patients and profession is retiring at the age of 82.

Aileen Coomber has worked as a staff nurse across the NHS, helped set up a nurse-led travelling day hospital and volunteered at an eye camp and mobile hospital in Ganeshpuri, India.

In 2017 she won the Bank Nurse award at the RCNi Nurse Awards for her work at Shepherd House in Worthing, an inpatient recovery unit.

Plans to return to her workplace as a volunteer

Ms Coomber is retiring as she is currently unable to wear glasses due to treatment for skin cancer on her face, but she plans to return to Shepherd House as a volunteer once her treatment is completed.

She started as a nurse cadet aged 15, became a nursing assistant at 21 and then completed her training to become a registered mental health nurse at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds in 1976. After retiring from the NHS aged 63, she started bank nursing.

‘The NHS was started when I was 12 and I do remember how difficult it was before we had a health service,’ Ms Coomber recalled.

Participated in NHS 70th anniversary service

In 2018, Ms Coomber was chosen to carry a copy of the original NHS manifesto during a service at Westminster Abbey to mark the 70th anniversary of the health service.

‘The NHS is such a gift, so it was an incredible day,’ she said. ‘My great-granddaughter presented the Countess of Wessex with a posy and told her, “My granny is a nurse and a superhero”.’

She added: ‘Things happen to all of us, but I believe there is something to learn from everything. Nurses do face daily challenges, but I think it can be a learning experience.’

‘An inspirational and compassionate person’

Ms Coomber’s manager, matron Sarah Cramp, who nominated her for the RCNi award, said: ‘Aileen is such an inspirational nurse and a compassionate person who puts people first in everything she does.

'Both patients and staff sense her overwhelming kindness and are so comfortable speaking to her.’

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