Julie Teakel was just 8 years old when she found that a favourite pass time was befriending and talking to lots of neighbours around her who were widowed and lonely. She used to go shopping for them, spend time with them drinking tea and hearing about their lives and families.
At the age of 16 after having work experience at her local hospital in Southmead, Bristol, she made the decision to become a nurse. At just two weeks from her 18th Birthday, 27th July 1980, Julie began her training to become an Enrolled Nurse between Southmead Hospital and Ham Green Hospital, and qualified 1st August 1982. On Julie’s first placement at Ham Green Hospital as a 1st year pupil nurse, Julie was placed on a surgical ward, and she got to go into Theatres to see an open cholecystectomy. The minute Julie stepped in the operating theatre, Julie knew what she wanted to be- a theatre nurse.
On qualifying Julie managed to get a job on nights working on infectious diseases, including caring for patients with the newly infectious disease known as H.I.V. In those days there was more nurses than jobs.
Julie then transferred to Odstock/ now known as Salisbury District Hospital when she got married to her forces husband Steve. She finally got that theatre job in the hospital. She worked in Plastics, Burns, Gynae, Trauma and Orthopaedics, and then transferred to Salisbury General Infirmary to work in General, Vascular and Urology.
In 1986 Steve was posted to Berlin, West Germany as it was then, to live behind the Berlin wall. Julie managed to get a job working in the British Military Hospital there working along side the QARANC midwives! It was the only job available. She used to assist the midwives during the deliveries, as well as helping with baby checks and taking bloods. It was that experience that made Julie realise she didn’t want to become a midwife! The responsibilities made her realise how complex and unexpected child birth can be.
In 1988 Steve left the army and moved into civilian life. Julie went on to have their daughter and then son, and spent the next 9 years working in Agency then nursing homes. Unable to get a permanent job in the NHS as a part time worker it was what Julie had to do. In 1997, Julie then applied to do the ENB course 902 to get back into the NHS which she passed. Still working 2 nights a week in a care home, Julie worked one bank shift a week on a late shift on a Tuesday evening in Southmead Hospital.
October 1998 Julie managed to get a one day a week working for UHB in Day Surgery back in the operating theatres. She then managed to get 6 nights a month working in Southmead Hospital on G ward which was respiratory. She did both jobs for 5 years slowly increasing her hours in theatres. In 2005 Julie made the big step into getting the job that she had dreamed of. Working in main theatres in Hey Groves in the Bristol Royal Infirmary full time across the shift patterns. During this time Julie was also juggling with the care needs of her elderly parents who died just 18 weeks apart as well as caring for her teenagers and husband.
Though remaining as a band 5 and as an Enrolled Nurse, Julie began to develop her skills and knowledge in theatres. Trauma and Orthopaedics became her first love. She enjoyed teaching and went on to train student nurses and student operation practitioners in theatres.
Then in May 2010 Julie’s world changed overnight. Steve, her husband, was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade 4 brain tumour. Julie, once she had got her head together, then began the process of understanding the speciality of neurosurgery. Steve had the first tumour removed with success and with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, went on to have a good recovery and had two good years. Unfortunately, the tumour grew back, and Julie focused on caring for Steve. Steve died aged 53 with Julie and their family by his side. Julie says it was her nursing skills and knowledge that helped her cope not just physically but mentally deal with what she went through.
Julie continued to work in theatres, but she was introduced to mental health nursing when her son aged 25 was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This she found a real mine field. Her son lived with her support for 5 years whilst he still managed to hold a job down. Things became challenging when Covid came along. Julie then made the difficult decision to transfer his care to the mental health team. As she says now, her relationship with her son is finally on a level again. Julie also maintains that having been a carer, it made her a better nurse, and also helped her communicate with patients and families who themselves had to go through the process of receiving bad news.
Julie made the decision to transfer for the final three and a half years to St Michaels Hospital in theatres, where she found herself working with babies again in obstetrics alongside ENT, Gynae and Upper GI. Her health was starting to go downhill with Arthritis in her hips and knees and she took retirement at 60.
Julie concludes- I have spent my whole working career doing a job I loved and a job that prepared me for the challenges I would face in life. I have had a fulfilling and good life because of it.