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May 1, 2017

Meet the second-oldest practicing nurse in the United States

Daily Briefing

If you're curious about how nursing has changed over the past seven decades, ask Jean McCarthy, a 91-year-old nurse who started her career in 1946 and hasn't stopped since, Rick Sobey reports for the Lowell Sun.

The Hellenic American Academy in Lowell, Massachusetts, honored McCarthy last week as part of a series recognizing heroes in the community. According to research by the school, McCarthy is the second-oldest practicing nurse in the country and the oldest practicing nurse in New England.

McCarthy's career includes stints at St. John's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Sancta Maria Hospital. She gave retirement a shot but found herself "bored to death," she said. Since then, she has worked at the Community Family Alzheimer's Day Health Center in Lowell—and this year marks her 24th year there.

How times have changed

Reflecting on her career, McCarthy acknowledged that nursing has "changed a great deal" over the past few decades. When she started out, for instance, there were no antibiotics, no computers, and nurses washed every single syringe—now, they come prepped and sterilized. "It was tough, but we loved it," McCarthy said.

And looking ahead, her primary concern is keeping in touch with patients. "I just hope we don't get too involved in computers because then we can lose the personal touch with clients," she said. "Listen to the patient and see if they're afraid of something, or explain what you're doing and why," McCarthy added, sharing her advice for nursing students. "You're so busy, but you have to take time to take care of the clients."

And as for her own career, McCarthy doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. "I hope I die with my boots on," she said (Sobey, Lowell Sun, 4/27).

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