A Team QEH member who has been the first point of contact for thousands of sick and injured patients as they enter our A&E reception is retiring after 37 years in the role.
Before a holiday on the other side of the world, Joy King had not given retirement much thought. Even at 67, it was no time soon.
However, 11 weeks spent in New Zealand visiting son Michael and his family changed her view and made the 67-year-old grandmother-of-two realise that, as much as she liked her part-time work at QEH, what she really wanted was complete freedom in her life. And so she has called time on her loyal and dedicated 47 years’ service to the NHS.
“I had no plans for when I would retire,” said Joy. “I’ll be 68 this year and didn’t want to go on working forever but the time I had in New Zealand made me realise that there is more to life. I got married last year and want to spend more time with my husband – and I don’t want the alarm clock going off at 5.45 in the morning anymore!”
Joy’s career in the NHS began as a ward clerk at St James’s Hospital in King’s Lynn in 1970. When she returned after her first maternity leave she was a part-time clerk in the bed bureau at the town’s general hospital. And upon QEH opening in 1980, Joy took up her current role, then called casualty receptionist.
In 2012, she became a cancer patient at the hospital after being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma but fortunately was able to return to work after six months.
Joy has seen a huge change in working practices and the number of patients passing through the emergency department.
She said: “I saw a diary entry I made in 1986. It said ‘went to work, quiet all day, only ten patients’. Now you’re lucky if you only get that many in an hour.
“I’ve enjoyed the work. For someone who got few qualifications, I’ve had so much variety in my job. No two days are the same and you get to have a bit of banter with some of the patients, who come from all walks of life.
“One patient who came in nine years ago still brings me a Christmas present every year. He’s in his 80s and always says to me ‘you saved my life’ because I recognised his symptoms when he came in. It’s surprising what you do pick up.
“Somebody said to me the other day that the hospital will miss me when I’m gone but I will miss the job more than they will miss me. It’s been a way of life for me.”
Joy met husband Tony, who is a senior emergency medical technician with East of England Ambulance Service Trust, through work. Her daughter, Tizzy Pennick is a team leader in QEH’s medical records library.
The couple, who live in Downham Market and celebrate their first wedding anniversary on June 24, are looking forward to having more holidays – with trips to Dorset, Skiathos and Cape Verde booked this year.
Joy’s final day at QEH is on Tuesday 19 June and she looks forward to seeing friends and colleagues past and present at a retirement party at Knights Hill Hotel on Saturday 7 July from 7pm.
Photo caption: Emergency department receptionist Joy King, who is retiring after 37 years in the role, helps another visitor.
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