“I REMEMBER my first day like it was yesterday. I pulled open the door to the outpatients department of the Tyrone County Hospital and wondered what lay ahead of me.”
Dorinda (Dorrie) Stafford joined the Administration and Clerical Team at the Tyrone County Hospital in Omagh on July 25, 1977 – over 45 years ago.
And now, with infinite memories of her worthwhile work and cherished colleagues stored away in her heart, Dorrie’s chapter in the health service comes to an end – as she welcomes retirement and all the opportunities that come with it.
“As a 20-year-old girl, I went in on my first day and was greeted by two lovely ladies – Ms Greta Neil, who was a domestic for outpatients, and Ms Nan Lyons, who was a nursing auxiliary,” began Dorrie, “Those two ladies made me very welcome.”
“I was told on my first day to treat every patient like they’re a family member and that nugget of advice stuck with me throughout my entire time working at the hospital.”
Dorrie recalled what the job was like back in 1977.
“It was all typewriters in the beginning,” she said, “All manual work – with appointments being written down in books – and no such thing as electronic copies.
“I remember we had a big phone which sat either on the desk or mounted on the wall which had only four buttons.”
Dorrie, and people like her, play vital roles in the smooth running of a hospital – and are often described as the ‘backbone’ of the health service.
“We were in control of everything and that’s why everything went very well – we kept everything going from start to finish,” said Dorrie.
Dorrie spoke affectionately of the tight-knit team which she worked alongside throughout the years – conveying the camaraderie and friendship within the walls of the Tyrone County Hospital, and, latterly, Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex.
“We all just stuck together like super glue and we all went the extra mile together.”
“My colleagues were like an extended family. We just had a real bond and they were always there if you needed anything or had any problems.
“We were all just handpicked NHS workers.
“Even outside of work, I remember we would all head away for weekends down to Dublin to see Cliff Richards.
“Or we would go down to the Royal Arms to see Dominic Kirwan or Frank Chism – and even the older ladies were ready for the road, ready to party!”
Dorrie remembered those colleagues who enriched her life, but are no longer around.
“We’ve lost a few colleagues over the years and I always carry those absent friends with me – I do miss them profoundly and it’s nice to keep them in my heart.”
As family, friends and colleagues joined together for Dorrie’s retirement party at the Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh, Dorrie was ecstatic to have brought everyone together once again.
“It was just a great band of ladies to work with,” said Dorrie, “and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
And now, as Dorrie looks toward retirement, she shares how she intends to fill the days which were once taken up by work.
“Since retiring on January 31, I have been loving retirement – I’m very happy.
“I have free days now to go and help my family which I’m very grateful for – I’m a very ‘hands-on’ person and love to help people.
“I have also returned to Limnaghan Parish Church, the church which my family worshipped in for years. I would have went to Sunday school there as a child.
“I’m pleased to have time to help out there.”
Dorrie concluded on a note of reflection.
“I thank God to have had my health all those years, and to still have it. I loved my job wholeheartedly and had a great passion for what I did.
“I got the same buzz on the day I began as on my final day in employment at the hospital – I packed a lot into those 45 years.
“But now, it’s time for a younger model to take over.”
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