Bittersweet day for longest-serving nurse

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TRURO - Pat Miller will never forget her first day working at Colchester Regional Hospital.

A bright, eager and energetic young nurse, Miller went to the wrong floor and sat through a report before the director of nursing noticed she was in the wrong spot.

"She told me I was on the wrong floor and that got a laugh from everybody," Miller said with a chuckle. "So I went downstairs and had to go through another report."

On Sunday, 42 years later, the 64-year-old East Stewiacke resident and the rest of the staff were busy completing the final tasks in their move to the new Colchester East Hants Health Centre before leaving the old hospital for the last time.

"It is a sad day but it's exciting too," Miller, the longest-serving nurse at Colchester Regional Hospital, said in a deserted emergency department. "You have mixed feelings because there are so many memories in this building but when you go over and look at the new building and walk inside it's pretty exciting."

Miller had just finished escorting patients to the new building on Abenaki Road. The process, which started at 9 a.m. and was supposed to take until 4 p.m. to complete, was actually finished about two hours early.

"Everyone worked very well together," Miller said.

She still had several hours left in her shift to help get things sorted in her new unit before patients start arriving today at 7 a.m.

Miller served as a general surgery nurse for the first 17 years of her career at Colchester Regional Hospital before working on the medical floor for the next seven. She then helped form the current medical day unit, which looks after patients in need of short-term care, such as the changing of dressings, and those in need of blood transfusions and intravenous treatments.

At the time of its inception in 1994, it was only the second medical day unit in the province and the first outside of Halifax.

"We kind of babied it from Day 1 to what it is now and last year I think we saw well over 7,000 visits," Miller said.

There's never a dull moment working in a hospital and Miller has dealt with her share of busy days. But she said she wouldn't trade them for anything and said the personalities of both the staff and patients have combined to make her career an amazing one.

"We had so much fun working together," she said. "I did 3-11 p.m. for a lot of years and there were seven or eight of us who worked together almost all the time and we made some really strong friendships and we all worked so well together."

Miller said one of the most exciting parts of the move is that atmosphere she enjoyed so much will be coming with her to the new hospital, allowing patients to feel welcome and secure.

"There are a lot of memories in this building but the people who made a lot of those memories with you are coming too," she said. "So there will be new experiences and lots to look forward to."

Sunday's move was a day Miller and the rest of the staff have been anticipating since the mid-2000s, after talks first started of building a new hospital.

"Everything has been centred around the move, especially in the last two or three months," she said. "It's so modern and up-to-date and clean and bright. Medical day has been without windows for so long and our unit has lots of windows all on one side so we're looking forward to that."

  

Organizations: Colchester Regional Hospital, Colchester East Hants Health Centre

Geographic location: East Stewiacke, Abenaki Road, Halifax

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