“Although the world around me has changed over the years, my goal as a nurse hasn’t changed – it’s the patients’ needs that matter and I always prioritise them.”
These are the words of Ruth Keys from Clogher who is celebrating 30 years of working as a registered nurse for Marie Curie this International Nurses Day (May 12)!
Ruth started her nursing career in the Ulster Hospital in Belfast in 1980 and after qualifying she took a staff nurse’s post and remained there for 14 years on night duty. Over these years Ruth’s personal life also progressed as she married her husband Hugh and they had six children - Stephen, Roslyn, Alyson, Andrew,
Matthew and Jonathan.
Having much admiration for the role of Marie Curie nursing, when the opportunity came to apply in 1998, Ruth jumped at the chance and was successful in obtaining a permanent post in the community.
“I had the opportunity to visit patients in the Marie Curie Hospice in Belfast and I remember thinking it was lovely there – it had such a nice atmosphere. I thought it was right up my street and was delighted when they were recruiting. Now its 30 years later and I have never looked back. I am very passionate about my job, I honestly love it. I really believe that nursing was my calling and Marie Curie has given me the opportunity to do that.
“Within my role, I cover the Southern and Western Trust, visiting people’s homes to provide care and support. I’m also part of the rapid response service in the Southern Trust, which meets people’s needs when they are most vulnerable. It’s an amazing service which covers all unsociable hours.
“It’s such a rewarding job and I get so many lovely cards and thank-you messages, which means so much. I have learnt the loveliness of families and how much people sacrifice to keep their loved ones at home.
“We also have to deal with some situations that can be very difficult when we enter the patient’s home. As well as providing medical care using our skills and knowledge, sometimes we are just an ear to listen. Often my heart breaks, especially when there are young children involved. I recall one time a husband setting his disabled son into the bed beside the boy’s mum as she passed away. In such cases the least we can do is share in their grief.”
Over the 30 years Ruth has also helped to raise lots of much-needed money for Marie Curie and received many prestigious awards and experiences.
She continued: “There have been so many memorable moments over the years. I have worked with the fundraising group in the Western Trust for over 20 years and have enjoyed much FUN-draising together and building special relationships. Some of whom I have since nursed and have had to say farewell due to their illness – we miss these folks greatly.
“In 1997 I was privileged to be a runner up in the ‘Nurse of the Year’ awards for NI and visited our office in London with many colleagues.
“In 2011 when the Queen opened the Titanic Building I was chosen to represent Marie Curie. This was a momentous afternoon and Her Majesty and The Duke of
Edinburgh spoke to each of us and then we joined many other dignitaries for a meal in the White Star Line Dining Room. My eldest daughter was married just a few months before so I already had a special outfit I could wear to the event!”
Reflecting on her career 30 years later Ruth concluded: “I have seen many changes within our service which all benefit our patients and staff. From nursing only patients with terminal cancer, we now provide care and support for patients with any terminal illness and their families. This has been a major enhancement to our service and has provided so many benefits to more families caring for their loved ones at home.
“Working with Marie Curie has really lived up to my expectations and having been a nurse for so long, I’ve lived through the advancement of digitalisation. I see the charity going from strength to strength and processes being simplified. Even having online learning is useful tool if there’s something you’re not sure about when out and about.
“However although the world around me has changed over the years, my goal as a nurse hasn’t changed – it’s the patients’ needs that matter and I always prioritise them. I have a personal faith so I believe in sharing the love that God has given to me, with others.”
International Nurses Day is on Sunday, May 12 and it celebrates the contribution that nurses make to societies around the world.