Karen Gray, Health Improvement Specialist and Registered General Nurse, St George’s University Hospital
“I started working for the NHS at the age of 16 as a nursing cadet in Sheffield. That was some 40+ years ago. My mum was a nursing sister and must have trained just after the start of the NHS, so in the school holidays I would sometimes go to the wards and help with feeding patients, cleaning and folding laundry. After qualifying I worked on orthopaedic wards then in A&E.
“I moved to London 30 years ago and worked on the bank at St George’s Hospital getting to visit most of the wards, then working as a staff nurse in A&E. I was on duty the day of the Clapham Rail disaster. I moved into Practice Nursing in Wandsworth 23 years ago, to have a regular 9-5pm working week. I moved back to St George’s four years ago and love the comfort and security of working here again. As a nurse I feel the hospital environment is a very familiar and exciting place to work.
“I now work in the South West London Bowel Cancer Screening Centre promoting the great cancer screening programmes we have to detect bowel cancer at an early stage when treatment is most effective. I get out a lot into community centres/groups and GP surgeries to raise awareness of bowel cancer prevention, screening and symptoms.
“I enjoy meeting people in the community and in Primary Care to improve lives against bowel cancer. I work with a dedicated team who value each other from consultants to cleaners.
“My proudest moment, in my 40+ years in the National Health Service, there have been many. Listening to people’s worries and concerns and helping them overcome these must come near the top. Working with colleagues, GPs, stakeholders and other voluntary and charity organisations to help and support people also makes me honoured to be part of the NHS. I am proud of the achievements made in treating cancer, over the years, to enable patients with a cancer diagnosis to live longer and reduce deaths from cancer.”