Walworth Stories: Retired Nurse reflects on 40 years working for the NHS

Katherine Johnston (04 September, 2020)

'In those days nursing was completely different, we had to make breakfast'

38778Christine

More than 50 Walworth residents came together last week to share their experiences of living and working in SE17.

Her NHS lanyard with a charm given by a patient

The local history project ‘Walworth Stories’ is being run by the community theatre group the People’s Company. 

The group have been collecting residents’ memories, turning them into online animations. 

Retired nurse Christine Tan, originally from Malaysia, is one of those to take part. 

In her story, she reflected on how she left home Kuala Lumpur in her early 20s to come and work for the NHS in a career that would span more than 40 years.

Christine landed in the UK on April 2, 1966, to take up her training in St Albans City Hospital. 

She then moved onto paediatrics at Evelina Children’s Hospital, and eventually into midwifery in Lambeth Hospital and at St Thomas’.

“Coming to this country it was very, very strange. I think I cried all the way on the plane,” she remembers.

“When I arrived in the hospital I met a lot of fellow people from my country, and we came to be very close together.”

Looking back to her training, she remembers: “In those days nursing was completely different, we had to make breakfast, do the cleaning and as a junior your part is to clean all the bed pans.”

In her first weeks she was given a cooking lesson by a ‘matronly like’ ward sister who showed her how to rustle up scrambled eggs after admitting she had never eaten or made them before. 

Now retired, Christine still keeps in touch with her NHS colleagues through a retirement group.

“After looking after people who are sick and old you have a lot of empathy for them,” she said, adding she was proud to have dedicated her life to caring for others.

Those taking part in the project were asked to bring along a memento that meant something special. For Christine, it was her NHS lanyard – including a charm given to her by a patient.

For more information on community history projects in Walworth, visit https://www.walworthsociety.co.uk/ and https://www.peoplescompanylondon.com/

For more information on community history projects in Walworth, visit https://www.walworthsociety.co.uk/ and https://www.peoplescompanylondon.com/

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