A North East nurse who had a career spanning 40 years has left retirement to assist the NHS during the Covid crisis.

Donna McPeake, from Seaham, who began her nursing career in Sunderland at Cherry Knowle Hospital in 1981, has returned to work following her retirement from a 40-year career.

She returned to work for Tees, Esk, and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV

She returned to her nursing career with the trust during the first Covid lockdown in 2020, where she took on a three-month role as a healthcare assistant.

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The Northern Echo:

Donna now works at Foss Park Hospital in York and now fondly looks back on her time there.

Ms McPeake said: “When Covid hit, I came back to the Trust as a health care assistant for three months – and I’m still here!

"Life really has come full circle for me.

“I know I’m lucky though. My Great Aunt Veronica had to leave nursing when she got married, as that was the rule at the time, while I can just keep on helping out.

“When I moved from Seaham to York, I met my husband-to-be Mike, who was a nursing officer. He later became a senior nurse and a hospital manager,” she said.

“My youngest daughter is a nurse as well, working in a neo-natal unit, so it does seem to run in the family. It really is a vocation – and I’d definitely do it all over again!”

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The Northern Echo:

Speaking on her motivation for returning, she said she felt duty-bound to play her part during the crisis.

She added: "I felt I needed to play my part – to be an extra pair of hands at a time of crisis,” said Donna, who works for Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV).

“I’m very proud of the NHS, and very proud to be part of it. Working in health care was, and always has been, my vocation. It’s what I wanted from a very early age.”

Ms McPeake trained as a state enrolled nurse (SEN) at 19, following in her Great Aunt Veronica McKeown's footsteps - who worked as a nurse in Liverpool during the 1920s.

She said she left school at 15 and had worked in an accounts office and car sales before settling on her career.

She finished her training in July 1984 before moving to York, working as an SEN on an older people’s ward at Naburn Hospital.

“I loved working with people, which is why I trained as an SEN. It was known as “the bedside nurse” at the time, as it was all about hands-on care," she added.

“One of the saddest things I witnessed were two ladies who had become pregnant out of wedlock years earlier.

"They were sent to the hospital and spent their lives there.

“I’ve seen a great many changes during my 42 years of working for the NHS, and I’m very glad that kind of thing is part of the past!”

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Donna moved to Bootham Park Hospital near York after two years at Naburn, then on to nearby Clifton Hospital – where she worked from 1984 until 1989.

She went on to train as a registered mental health nurse (RMN) with York and Scarborough School of Nursing, before starting work at Worsley Court in Selby.

She also worked as a community psychiatric nurse around Selby, York and Easingwold, before lecturing in nursing at York College and York University.