Community nurse, 77, reflects on 40 years in the role and still has no plans to retire
- Credit: Nick Butcher
At the age of 77, Maureen Underdown still works as a community nurse, a role she has carried out for 40 years and has no plans to give up.
The great-grandmother started life as an auxiliary nurse at the old Lowestoft Hospital in 1977, before moving onto the outpatient department at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston in 1981, where she stayed for four years.
It was then that she took up her current role as a community healthcare assistant, and still works five days a week for East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH), based in Lowestoft at Hamilton House.
She said: 'I was the middle child of a family of 13, so with 12 brothers and sisters we were made to look after each other and help each other out.
'I've always had that caring in me as my mum was left a widow at a very young age. She was expecting her 13th child when my father died so we had to care and look after each other.
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'I love my job and the patients are so lovely. I love going to see them and they love seeing me because I am always happy. It's a wonderful life and nursing is lovely.'
Before going into nursing, Mrs Underdown worked with elderly patients at Kirkley House and cared for people with mental health conditions at John Turner House in Lowestoft.
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At the start of her nursing career she worked as a bath nurse, visiting patients around the community who needed help with general hygiene. Her role has changed many times over the years and she is now responsible for administering dressings and wound care.
Mrs Underdown goes for breakfast every morning at her sister's house before work, and helped to care for her sister's husband when he was diagnosed with dementia.
Her own husband, Fred, died almost six years ago after going into Papworth Hospital for heart surgery. The pair had been married for 53 years.
Mrs Underdown said: 'If he would have come home from Papworth then I would have probably finished work as he would have needed me to care for him and that would have been my priority. But he never came back so this has given me something to do, it's something I enjoy and it's such a big part of my life.'
Mrs Underdown works mainly in Lowestoft also covering Corton and Blundeston, but sometimes travels out as far as Barnby and Somerleyton to care for patients there.
She works five shifts a week from 8.30am to 2.30pm, and says she enjoys being part of a 'lovely' team.
Back in November, Mrs Underdown was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at ECCH's annual staff awards held at the Hotel Victoria in Lowestoft.
'I was told I was nominated and I knew I was one of three nominees, but when I was called out as the winner I was gobsmacked,' she said.
'I don't want to be recognised for what I do because it's my job and it's what I enjoy doing.
'I never say no, whatever they ask I try to help them out even if I go over my time.
'You don't do it to get prizes, although I did hear Diana Ross got one the other day too so I am up there with her.'
Mrs Underdown has two daughters Linda and Susan, who take her away on three holidays a year as well as trips to London. She is also kept busy with six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
But even at 77, Mrs Underdown has no plans to retire, and says there is nothing she doesn't love about her job.
'I don't know what I would do if I gave it up,' she said
'Everything I do I enjoy and I make all the patients laugh.
'If they want a couple of tea I make them one and when you are not busy you do get that little extra time to chat so they have a nice day as well.'