Great Ormond Street Hospital chief nurse who oversaw Charlie Gard case retires

Great Ormond Street Hospital chief nurse Juliette Greenwood waves goodbye to the 'continual journey of learning and self-improvement' as she retires from the post.

When Great Ormond Street Hospital's (GOSH) retiring chief nurse Juliette Greenwood was asked what she does, she simply replies: 'I am a nurse'.

Juliette Greenwood will retire after 37 years of a nursing career. 

In an interview with Nursing Standard to mark her retirement last week from a career spanning 37 years, Ms Greenwood said: 'To lead your profession in your organisation is an incredible privilege.

'It's never been about having a title, when people ask me what I am I reply “I am a nurse”, that is what I want to be known as.

'It's a continual journey of learning and self-improvement. We deal with a range of illnesses and conditions now that were not able to be treated when I started nursing.'

Overseeing the Charlie Gard case

Her two-year tenure as chief nurse meant she was a part of the senior management team at the time of the case of Charlie Gard, a child with an incredibly complex condition.

Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition called encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome (MDDS), causing progressive brain damage. His parents had wanted their son to receive an experimental treatment in the United States to try to cure him but experts at GOSH argued repeatedly in court to withdraw life support as nothing further could be done.

'Difficult and tragic'

Ms Greenwood said: ‘That was a difficult and tragic situation, but we have difficult and tragic situations regularly affecting families in this hospital.’

The case attracted international media attention and saw staff receive death threats and abuse.

Ms Greenwood added: ‘It is rare that such a situation gets into the public arena to such an extent.

‘Staff have to be supported at all times to meet their needs so they can provide the care they want to provide.

‘Our staff worked tirelessly, as they do for every child in their care, we would not expect anything less of them and we would expect to provide them with the support and care and protection to do their job because that is what they are here to do.'

'Children and families keep you going'

Ms Greenwood's role as chief nurse was her third stint at GOSH, having started there as a nurse trainee in 1982.

She said GOSH sees children with 'the most complex of conditions' but there is a range of specially trained staff to treat them.

'What keeps you going is the children and the families; you know you are helping them through the most difficult situations, times of great joy and great fear,' she said.

‘I’m proud to have been here for so long, GOSH is a fantastic institution and to be a nurse associated with it is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.’

While her successor is yet to be chosen, Ms Greenwood said: ‘They will be inheriting a phenomenally gifted and committed workforce here.’

Inspiring the next generation of nurses

She has also told colleagues there could ‘soon be a new nurse Greenwood’ on the wards as her 15-year-old daughter has expressed a desire to follow in her footsteps.

'She did work experience with one of our student nurse practice facilitators; who work with the 300 plus nurses we have on placements here all the time,' she said.

The experience inspired her daughter, Clara Greenwood.

Ms Greenwood said: ‘Nursing is not a job you can pick up and put down, it takes a lot of hard work, commitment, and dedication, but it can also be a lot of fun.’

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