Britain’s oldest nurse is celebrating her 83rd birthday this week – after 64 YEARS in the job.
Monica Bulman started walking the wards in 1952 aged 19 and qualified as a registered nurse five years later.
Ever since, she has dedicated her life to treating tens of thousands of patients – and all while raising two sons and juggling a marriage.
Amazingly, the inspirational grandmother – who loves books and going spinning – still works between 15 and 20 hours a week and has no plans to retire.
Monica, who is currently part of the specialist outpatient surgical clinic team for Endoscopy at Torbay Hospital in Devon, said: “I love my job, each and every part of it.
“Being a nurse brings me so much pleasure and keeps me on my toes.
“The NHS has been a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
“I’m always happy at work, I just don’t have down days when I’m at work.”
Monica, who was born on September 1 1933, began her career at Eltham and St John’s Hospitals in London.
In 1968, after 15 years in the capital, she moved to Torquay, Devon, where she started working for a nursing agency.
Monica said hospital life has changed drastically since her career began – and she reckons the uniform used to be more glamorous back in the day.
She said: “Nursing has changed a lot over the years especially the technology, which is wonderful – unless it breaks down.
“Although we now have much more paperwork to compete, it is fantastic that with the technology we can now look up our patient’s x-rays and test results at the click of a button rather than having lengthy waits for the information.
“Another change that amuses me is that years ago the Theatre Nurses, who were all gowned up, had to manually thread the needles for surgery, whereas now these all come in packs, pre-threaded.
“The uniforms have also changed considerably although I have to admit I did prefer our old uniforms, they were much more glamorous.
“I bought a belt to wear with my uniform when I qualified in 1957 – I still have and wear the very same belt to this day.”
In 1978, Monica took on a job in the emergency department at Paignton Community Hospital and later worked on the outpatients department.
Two decades later, she celebrated her 65th birthday – retirement age.
But instead of throwing in the towel, the dedicated mother-of-two decided to carry on working because she “didn’t want to” stop.
A Sister from the outpatients department at Torbay Hospital asked Monica to work as a bank nurse for a few weeks but she ended up staying.
She has now worked at the hospital for almost 20 years.
Of all the memories she has made in her six-decade career, Monica said her favourite time was when she was training at St John’s Hospital in London.
She said: “After being on night duty, the Sister used to give us (the students) a cup of cocoa every morning after our night shift.
“She was our ‘mother hen’ and guided and nurtured us through our training as well as our personal lives.
“I have never been unhappy at work and have so many wonderful memories and friendships that will be with me forever.
“My job has kept me going and helped me through some of the toughest times in my life.
“I don’t know what I would have done without my colleagues and a job where I can dedicate myself to caring for others.
“I still have no plans to retire and I hope to keep going for as long as I am able.”
Not one for taking it easy, Monica is incredibly active and fit.
She regularly attends the gym and spinning classes at Torbay Leisure Centre and said she puts much younger attendees to shame.
Monica is also an avid reader and a member of a local skittles club.
She said: “I do like to keep fit and healthy, but I also like to be ‘glam’ – I enjoy going to my local beauty salon as well doing all my hobbies.
“Most of all though I love spending time with my family and my grandchildren; this is what I enjoy the most.”
Mairead McAlinden, Chief Executive of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, described Monica as an “inspiration”.
She said: “Not only is she an outstanding nurse, but she leads by example by keeping active, fit and helping others – as well as being a very glamorous lady.
“She exudes all of the qualities that a good nurse should possess and is a shining example of this Trust’s commitment to caring, excellent service.
“I am sure I speak for everyone at the Trust when I say we are incredibly grateful for Monica’s continued dedication.
“We are so proud that she is a member of our staff and we hope she will continue to provide her nursing skills to the people of Torbay and South Devon for many more years to come.”