Growing orchids, paddling in the kayak and planning where to travel once the borders are open... That's what's on Sandra Ellis' agenda, now that she has retired after 48 years with the Shoalhaven Hospital.
Celebrating the milestone over morning tea with her colleagues, Mrs Ellis' wrapped up her career last Thursday, April 15.
"I'm one of 11 children, so I've got plenty of grand children locally to keep me busy!" said Mrs Ellis.
After completing her studies and working in Sydney as a nurse for the first five years of her career, Mrs Ellis returned to Nowra and began work at the Shoalhaven Hospital.
"When I came back to Nowra from Sydney, there was really only one place here for a nurse to work, which was the Shoalhaven hospital, aside from one other very small nursing home," she said.
"Now, there are a lot of nursing homes, and a private hospital and options for community health too.
"But if you wanted to be a nurse back then, the Shoalhaven Hospital was your choice, and I guess I just stuck around."
Asked what drew her to the profession, Mrs Ellis said "it was just one of those things that seemed suited to me."
"I enjoyed being a nurse and I really enjoyed helping people. I thought I was a good nurse, but I thought as time went on, it was definitely time for a change."
After 38 years as a nurse in Nowra, Mrs Ellis stepped into clinical coding, a role she carried out the rest of her career in.
"As I've gotten older and have had to work night duty as a nurse, you didn't seem to sleep as well in the day time, so ten years ago I thought a change in career was needed," she said.
"Clinical coding ended up working really well for me."
Mrs Ellis reflected on its changes and said she enjoyed watching it grow.
"It was more like a cottage hospital when I first came here," she said.
"The GP's were the doctors - they were the obstetricians and the surgeons and the anaesthetists - they did it all. We didn't have any specialists or surgeons or anything like what we have now.
"And as a clinical coder, reading medical records became a lot easier over time, because they're mostly electronic and we don't have to try and read a doctor's handwriting! And if you've ever read a script, you'd know what that's like...
"It's been very good watching it grow over the years, it's still growing now and I think there's definitely a need for it to keep growing."
After a rewarding career as a nurse, Mrs Ellis said it was the friendships that ultimately kept her at the Shoalhaven Hospital for so long.
"The friendships I've made here at the Shoalhaven Hospital have been so lovely," said Mrs Ellis.
"Because as you go through life, and over the 48 years at the hospital, it's always nice to have your friends here supporting you."
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