FOR 50 years, staff nurse Ida Johnson has been with families during the best and worst possible times, offering a shoulder to cry on and a reassuring word.

And her familiar face on the children's ward and caring nature will be missed by both colleagues and patients as she looks forward to her retirement at the age of 66.

Ida, followed in the footsteps of her father, who who had worked as a medic in the army and returned to be a charge nurse in Greater Manchester.

She volunteered for the Red Cross from 12-years-old before beginning her nursing career at 16. She fondly remembers working in the old Isolation Hospitals across Greater Manchester, often travelling to work on her faithful moped to ensure she could work tricky shift patterns.

The Bolton News:

Speaking about her early memories of nursing, Ida (pictured) said: “The ward sisters were like Sergeant Majors. They would tell you each patient had a condition, but you had to know everything about every condition. It was ‘Right nurse, tell me all about appendicitis’ ‘Right nurse, what is that drug for?’

“They had very long wards, they called them Victorian Wards, 20 beds down one side, turn the corner, 20 beds down the other side and all the beds we used to make them normal. There were no quilts and you had to have your corners absolutely perfect on every bed. It was almost as though the corners of the bed and the bed making were far more important than looking after the patients. The wards had to be regimentally pure and clean but they were the simple jobs that had to be done.”

The Bolton News:

Ida began her nursing career as a Cadet Nurse at Salford Royal Hospital in 1970. She also served at Bury’s Florence Nightingale Hospital before moving to Royal Bolton in 1985. Ida qualified as a registered children's nurse in 1998 and she worked across the Trust’s Children’s Wards and settled into Children’s Outpatients in 2009.

Ida (pictured) had been planning to retire in 2016, but following the death of her husband Allan, in 2014, she postponed her retirement and decided to push on to reach her 50th year in the NHS.

Ida’s last few months at Royal Bolton Hospital have been tinged with sadness due to her shielding at home, meaning that she hasn’t fulfilled her wish of retiring whilst in service.

She did however get one final send off when she returned to the hospital for a celebratory lunch on Friday, where she received a host of gifts, including a personal letter of thanks from Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

She said: “At the start of the year it was all cheeriness and looking forward to it, I was a bit jovial about it. Unfortunately the pandemic has made that feeling go away because I have not been with my work colleagues and that is a little bit of a downer.

“Throughout your lifetime you make a lot of friends at work. When I joined Bolton I slowly built up friendships and there are some girls who are still here from when I arrived and some of the girls might have come later on while I have been working there, there’s one lady at Bolton who has been there longer than me.

“It’s nice to make some strong friendships and I know a lot of these friendships will continue outside of work. We will meet up and go for lunches and to the theatre and be lifelong friends.”

The Bolton News:

Ida (pictured) retirement plans include a trip to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, and continuing to enjoy her love of horse racing, the theatre, walking her dog Bobby, gardening and of course travelling with her son Michael, with trips to both Japan and Australia also in the pipeline.

She said: “It is sad that I couldn’t work with the girls right up to finishing,” Ida said before focusing on her legacy at the Trust. “I have absolutely loved my time at Royal Bolton Hospital. In my time I have set a couple of clinics up and taught other young ladies who were going to take my role on.

“I developed another clinic for the unit that runs extremely well, with the neo-natal unit and that role I have passed on to a young staff nurse to be the lead nurse for that clinic and I look forward to seeing them progress with it.

“And I wish to congratulate my successor with her career move.

“I would like to thank the staff of Children’s Outpatients and the whole of the Family Division, including doctors and secretaries for the exceptional gifts that I received. I am overwhelmed.”

The Bolton News:

(Ida Johnson)

Anne Hunter, Team Leader Children’s Outpatients said: “I am very proud of Ida and she will be greatly missed by myself and her team members, who think very highly of her, not only as a colleague, but as a dear friend too. Ida is a continuous, caring and a very experienced nurse with 50 years’ experience, with 35 years at Bolton.

" I feel so lucky to have spent all my nursing career with Ida, not only has she been a role model to me, but also to others that have crossed her path through her years of nursing.

“Furthermore, Ida is an inspiration to others, as she has battled through many illnesses, but always soldiered on, displaying excellent work ethics. Ida was shielding and was so disappointed that she was unable to work, but I am happy that we ended her nursing years with a lunch amongst her friends in Children’s Outpatients.”

Royal Bolton Hospital’s Director of Nursing Marie Forshaw said: “Fifty years working as a staff nurse in the NHS is a tremendous achievement and one which is worthy of recognition and praise. I’d like to wish Ida all the best on her retirement, she has had an amazing career and her retirement will be a loss to the nursing profession.”