A nurse who was told she was “not intelligent enough” for her dream job has reflected on more than three decades' service as the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Sandra Mahoney, 53, of Dagenham, has worked for Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT) for 35 years, including 15 years at Queen's Hospital in Romford.

She discussed her career ahead of the NHS turning 75 this Wednesday (July 5).

Sandra said that it has not been easy to become a nurse and, as a child, a teacher told her she might not be cut out for the job.

“In a careers discussion at school a teacher said I might not be intelligent enough and advised me to try nursery nursing instead.”

This delivered a blow to Sandra, who dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was eight years old, having been in and out of hospital with asthma.

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Sandra tried nursery nursing during work experience, but found it was not for her.

But aged 18, Sandra joined the East Roding School of Nursing at Barking Hospital.

Just three months later after qualifying, Sandra found an orthopaedics job at the former King George Hospital site.

She later became ward manager, a role she held for 14 years, and spoke fondly about international nurses she worked with.

“They’ve become like family.

“It’s given me a great opportunity to travel," she added. "Some have moved to Australia and we still visit each other.”

Sandra then moved to Queen’s Hospital where she was a matron for a decade, before becoming lead nurse in 2021.

After years of service, Sandra was resolute about her love of the job and her credentials.

“I never wavered that it was what I wanted to do," she said. “A lot has changed over the years, but a patient is still a patient at the end of it."

She added that nursing is an ability she has always possessed, an instinct that driven her for 35 years.

“When they call for help, it’s instinctive.”

Sandra, a part-time photographer, will be taking photos of colleagues at Queen’s Hospital on Friday (July 7).