She said: “I trained for three years. I worked in medical and elderly care initially and the in 1977 I went on maternity leave as my son was born.
“When I returned to work I did two nights a week for a few years.”
Lesley took a year off in 1981 to 1982 to have her daughter.
“I broke my service then but when I returned I worked in general surgery and vascular.”
In 1992, Lesley became a ward sister and stayed in that role for five years before becoming a vascular nurse practitioner under Mrs Filkins, a former director of nursing and quality.
“She was a very good leader and was very forward thinking,” said Lesley.
In her new role as vascular nurse practitioner Lesley’s work saw her out in the community to try and reduce the number of hospital admissions.
She also completed a postgraduate diploma in nurse prescribing
She now works 30 hours over four days but is hoping to retire later this year.
On a typical day Lesley arrives at work at 8am and checks her emails. She then nips over to X-ray and then helps patients before running a clinic.
She would finish the day sending any communication about patients to doctors and nurses.
During her career she has met Princess Anne when she visited the hospital in the early 1970s and has given many presentations.
She has also written for the acclaimed British Medical Journal.
“I like to think I’ve been proactive,” she said.
“I’ve given the best care I can to my patients in the vascular service.”
In November last year, Lesley won an award at the Society of Vascular Nurses conference.
She was announced winner of the SVN 2019 Services to Vascular Nursing Award.
The award acknowledges outstanding leadership, dedication to service improvement, and the consistent demonstration of compassion, kindness and courage.
She said: “It was nice to receive the award and I was quite surprised when I won.”
Her advice for anyone wanting to start a career in nursing follows.
“It’s got to be a job that you really want to do,” she said.
“It is so rewarding. I’ve always worked in clinical care because that’s where I got the most satisfaction. You have to gain the confidence of your patients and I think I’ve done that.
“You just have to give them the best care you possibly can. You do change their lives. It’s been a challenge at times but I’ve looked after some wonderful patients with leg ulcers and you just have to try your best for them.”
Lesley says one of the biggest changes since she started her career in 1970 to the present day is the turnover of staff.
She said: “At one time you knew everyone in the hospital. There wasn’t such a large amount of staff. I think the workforce now is more transient and it has grown beyond recognition.
“Technology has also changed things.”
Linda Graham joined the nursing profession later in life but that hasn’t stopped her.
She is constantly striving to be the best – in her own job and empowering those in her community team in Eden.
She said: “When I was younger I wanted to go into either teaching or nursing. I really wanted to join the Navy. That was my plan. But you had to go to Portsmouth and I didn’t want to go that far from home.”
Instead, Linda took up the option of going to Liverpool to study teaching.
She qualified and got a job but when she returned to work after having her second child she decided she wanted to do something else.
Linda, who is now team lead for community nursing in Penrith and High Hesket, said: “I was a nurse auxiliary on a maternity ward for 15 years and I loved it. I worked nights which was great as it fitted in with the kids.”
Further qualifications followed and in 2004 Linda qualified and was given a temporary contract as a community nurse.
Keen to learn more skills, she also banked with the minor injuries at Penrith Hospital.
Being local to Eden has helped Linda immensely.
She said: “Local knowledge is important and knowing the geography of the area you cover is important because Eden is a very rural area. I’ve been able to build up a good support network of GPs and specialist nurses.”
Linda looks after a team of about 25 staff and although her job involves a lot of organising and managing, she is keen to remain clinical.
She said: “We have to upskill to meet the acute needs of people. People come out of hospital a lot quicker than they used to.
“The job is incredibly busy and we deliver more acute care to patients at home. It’s good to work so closely with the ICCs and other staff as conversations can take place quicker than they used to as everyone is in the same room.”
When Storm Desmond struck – leaving parts of Eden flooded - in 2015 Linda was on hand to help. Similar mayday calls were made when the Beast from the East struck and more recently when Appleby flooded.
She added: “It was horrendous, but the team I have are just fantastic. Our priority was to make contact with vulnerable patients. A lot of people were working from home but were able to make telephone calls and a lot of staff had husbands and relatives with tractors and 4x4 vehicles who were able to help.
“Staff and patient safety has to come first. We evacuated two patients – one who had high dependency needs and the other who was receiving end of life care. The mountain rescue team and a team based in Kendal were a magnificent help.
“We spoke to family members over the phone so they could administer insulin and we made sure everyone’s needs were met.
“A lot of work got put on hold as we were dealing with priority needs so we had to play catch up when things calmed down.”
In 2015, Linda became a Queens Nurse. The title is available to individual nurses who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to patient care and nursing practice. All nurses, health visitors and midwives with five years' experience of working in the community are eligible to apply.
Linda received her award in London from Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, chief executive of the Queen’s Nursing Institute.
She said: “It was really nice to be recognised.”
Linda has some advice for anyone thinking of a career in nursing.
She said: “To be a nurse you have to have empathy. Staff carry an enormous emotional burden. There is a huge emotional demand on community nurses. You have to move from one patient to another quite quickly and you have to be able to deal with your next patient. The time in the car usually helps.
“To be a nurse in 2020 you need to be highly skilled, be really resilient, be conscious of your own well being and have a good support network around you.
“You must never forget that the patient is at the centre of everything you do.
“And you should never expect your team to do anything you can’t.”