It was in the Silver Jubilee year of 1977 that Penny Merritt first put on a nurse’s uniform when she started her training that September in Harrow just after her 18th birthday.
Forty-two years on, Penny Pidgeon, as she is now, has just retired from the Mildenhall and Brandon integrated neighbourhood team, part of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s community services, at the age of 60.
The daughter of a nurse, Penny always wanted to enter the profession and after qualifying in 1980 worked on the wards of a community hospital, taking a break in 1984 when her first son was born. That was also the year she moved to Brandon, when her husband took a job at RAF Mildenhall. Penny lives in the town and has been based with the community nurses, therapists and generic workers at its health centre since 2005.
“I have always worked in community services and loved it,” said Penny. “My first role in Suffolk was on the ward at Newmarket Community Hospital, until I joined the community team here.
“Community gives you that little bit of independence,” she said. “I have learned so much caring for people with a broad spectrum of needs. You get to know the patients and their families very well, and many of them I have looked after for years.”
Penny’s colleagues organised a joint retirement and birthday celebration at the health centre, where she was presented with gifts and a certificate acknowledging her decades of service.
Team lead Heather Male said: “I would like to thank Penny for her dedication to the NHS and to her local community. She has worked so hard, often putting in extra hours and extra weekends. She has always faced up to challenges and always put our patients first. We shall miss her.”
District nursing sister Jo Dominey said: “Penny is amazing, a brilliant nurse and a really good person to talk to, which is important. She kept us on the straight and narrow.”
Penny continued: “I am leaving with mixed feelings, and will miss this lovely team. They have been smashing to work with but I am looking forward to having more family time with our sons and grandchildren!”