How can it be 40 years since I started nursing?

Colin Parish is preparing for a big reunion, but some of his fellow students have gone missing...

You know that moment when you wake up and realise you started your general nurse training course 40 years ago?

No? Well you will.

Sept '77
Greenwich District Hospital September 1977 – that’s me, far left, with all the hair.

My career as a nurse started in September 1977 at the futuristic Greenwich District Hospital in south London: look it up on YouTube – it had escalators.

It has recently been knocked down because it was out of date, unfit for purpose and a blot on the landscape – I know the feeling.

But how time passes.

In those 40 years nursing has grown as a profession in size, scope and influence.

Back then I was told that I should never run, even in a life or death situation, and that on ward rounds I should stand with my hands meekly behind my back and never fold my arms.

'Time wasting'

I was discouraged from talking to patients – ‘wasting time’ – and shifts were an endless round of tasks to be done, lists to be ticked off, equipment to be cleaned.

I was taught anatomy and physiology to within an inch of my life: I can still remember the mnemonic for the cranial nerves: On Old Olympus Towering Tops A Finn And German Viewed Some Hops. What was that all about?

But then I’ve just surprised myself by also remembering the actual names of the cranial nerves.

Well, this September, we are having a reunion to celebrate the passing years and catch up on old friendships.

And this is where you come in.

There were 27 of us who started in the Greenwich District Hospital, September 1977 group all those years ago, and we are searching for some people who have slipped off our radar.

Do you know anyone who trained in Greenwich at that time who might know the people we are looking for?

They are Valerie Bushell, Sally Bennett, Ann Chapman, Angela Digby, Christine Eldridge, Linda Elphick, Liz Keogh, Sylvia Mugugu, Fiona O'Herlihy and Jenny Worden.


I wonder what they’ve been up to… and how many of them can remember those pesky cranial nerves.

Colin Parish is editor of Mental Health Practice.

You can contact him via email: or Twitter: @rcni_Colin

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