Forth Valley Nursing Assistant Celebrates Her 80th Birthday and 54 Years of Service

An NHS Forth Valley Nursing Assistant, believed to be the oldest in Scotland, has celebrated her 80th birthday at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, after an amazing 54 years of caring for others. Betty Wright from Larbert had just finished an early shift in Ward A31 at the hospital when colleagues threw her a surprise party, complete with balloons, a birthday cake, flowers and a shower of gifts.

Betty appeared momentarily stunned when fellow nurses and staff gave her a huge round of applause as she entered a staff room. But within minutes she was joking: “I can’t believe it. I thought we had come for a wee bit of cake out of the fridge ahead of my birthday.  I didn’t think I was so well known, I just come to do my work and then go away home.”

Betty joined the health service as a domestic at the former Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary and then became a nursing auxiliary, working with the out-of-hours district nurses at Falkirk before joining the local staff bank. She recalled her earlier days of nursing when there were no hoists and stand-aids, patients having to be moved and lifted manually. The dress code was strict; white triangle caps, grey uniforms piped with white and a pillbox hat for nurses looking after patients in the community.

“When you saw Miss Cadger, the Matron, you didn’t even breathe when passing her!” said Betty.

Betty has dedicated her life to caring for tens of thousands of patients from across Forth Valley. She loves going on cruises, line dancing and bus trips. NHS Forth Valley Senior Charge Nurse Rosario Walshe described her as “hard working, dedicated, caring and kind, a remarkable lady who thinks nothing of going home from an early shift and painting a fence or cutting the grass.”

When asked what the secret to staying young was Betty said: “Hard work is the secret” I also don’t smoke and I’m not much of a drinker. I don’t want to be an old wife sitting in a chair – working is my life and I hope God gives me strength to carry on.”

And Betty also had advice for those embarking on a career in nursing. She said: “Be kind to your patients. I also like a bit of banter with patients and staff, it helps put people at ease and it’s much better than saying to someone you’re going to the theatre and getting so many stitches. Hang to that!”

Professor Angela Wallace, NHS Forth Valley’s Director of Nursing, said: “Betty is a credit to the nursing professional and much loved by local patients and staff. It’s fantastic that she is still working and it’s obvious that she really enjoys what she does.”

Betty has no plans to retire but did confirm that she wasn’t available for a morning shift on her actual birthday – instead she was going out with her daughter to celebrate!