A district nurse who spent nights providing care for terminally-ill patients has retired after more than half a century.
Margaret Skinner, 70, who stays in Kintore with her husband Willie, began her journey with the NHS aged just 16.
Back then, she worked as an auxiliary nurse during the summer months, but became fully trained as a nurse aged 20. In the 54 years that followed she has worked as a midwife, in casualty and in the night service.
Margaret, who has four children – Murray, Ewan, Scott and Iona – will be swapping healthcare for childcare in her retirement and plans to look after granddaughter Lara several days a week.
She said: “It’s a privilege having her, it’s my first grandchild. She turns one tomorrow.”
Another thing that will change for Margaret is she will be able to reclaim her evenings.
She said: “The last 15 years at least I’ve been doing four nights on, four nights off.
“It’s a very unique job, there’s no two nights the same.
“Anyone who needs a call through the night, I went out. We’re based in the emergency care centre in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary but we can be out in the community all night.”
Working regularly from 10pm until 2am, she visited the homes of many patients, to help with a range of different issues – from administering medicine, changing catheters and offering assistance after falls.
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Evening Express newsletter
Those on night duty cover a large area, spanning Fintry, Blackburn, Balmedie and Drumoak.
She added: “We’re still lone workers if we’re busy as we’ve got a big mileage to cover. Sometimes I can do up to 60 miles a night.
“Our main remit is the terminally ill. We’ve an excellent service in the city.
“The people who want to die at home, I can provide a nurse for them if they want a nurse, or we can support them through the night.
“We also do all of the unscheduled calls, for catheters, enemas, dressings, injections. We’re also the falls team for the city and any end-of-life care.
“It varies how many people we see, we can see up to 16 a night in a busy night, or maybe only have one or two. On average we see between six and 10.
“It’s a brilliant service, it’s been good to me.
“Patients really, really appreciate it.”
Looking back on her career, which saw her follow in her mum’s footsteps, Margaret said: “I’ve been with the health board since I was 16, initially I was an auxiliary nurse and then I went to do a three-year course in institutional management, but I worked for three months at a time in the summer.
“I’ve just loved my job.
“I’ve coped a long time on night duty, a lot of folk don’t stay that long on night duty, but it’s just agreed with my health.
“I’ve just really enjoyed it. There’s a lot of fields that you can branch into.
“My mum was a district nurse in the Highlands, and she worked well into her 70s so I think nursing was always what I wanted to do. I love people, I’m a people person. I think you need to be for a nurse, you need to put yourself in their shoes.”
At the start of her stint working nights, she carried out the job herself, without a phone. However, now there are often two people on the job, which can make things easier – especially when the weather conditions are bad. And although she has retired, Margaret is continuing to cover the odd night to help out the service.
To mark her leaving the health board, her colleagues threw her a party, and wrote a poem for her. She also had a tea party at NHS building Summerfield House.
She said: “I got a lot of lovely, nice words. I get on so well with them.”