A MUCH-loved and respected nurse who has helped babies to survive against all the odds is to retire after a 40 year career.

Colchester Hospital’s neonatal unit manager Karen Moss started her nursing training in 1980.

Her mum was an accident and emergency sister at Essex County Hospital in the 1960s and later a health visitor, and it was her who inspired Karen to go into nursing.

“Her way of nursing is something I’ve not really changed from,” Karen said. “I was taught to treat people as I would like to be treated.”

After completing her training, Karen joined Colchester Maternity Hospital in 1984 as a student midwife and qualified in 1986.

She went on to work at The Rosie (maternity) Hospital in Cambridge in 1987 and undertook more specialist neonatal training while she was there.

She said: “I found a niche that I absolutely loved.

“I really loved the care of these tiny babies and the support given to the families who were always so grateful for our help.”

After six months in Cambridge, Karen returned to Colchester Maternity Hospital in 1988 and took up a sister post at the age of 26.

She has worked on the neonatal unit (formerly the special care baby unit) ever since and has been the unit manager since 2011.

Karen said: “I love helping parents whose babies are unwell, offering teaching, support and reassurance their baby/babies will eventually get better and they can take them home.

“The care of these tiny babies requires attention to detail and precision nursing. This gives a great deal of job satisfaction at the end of a shift knowing the baby you have cared for has been fed, is clinically stable and well.”

Karen has spent many Christmases working but in 1991 she wasn’t caring for tiny babies, she was having a baby herself.

She said: “The whole of maternity and the neonatal unit knew I was in labour, but I found it so reassuring as I knew everyone was about."

Karen and her daughter, Hannah, who celebrates her 29th birthday tomorrow, made the front page of the Gazette, but the “embarrassment” of featuring so prominently in the paper is something she still remembers although she now looks back fondly on it.

Karen also has a 25-year-old son, David, and lives on a farm in Great Bromley with her husband, Robert.

Karen, who is retiring on New Year’s Eve, has seen many advances in technology over four decades, which have led to major improvements in neonatal care.

She said: “Admitting sick, pre-term babies and twins or triplets is a huge feat that shows the team at their best.

“It’s a unique experience from the skilled nurses caring for the baby but also the nursery nurses who carry out all the support to allow this to happen.

“I’m so pleased to have been a part of that.

“I’ll miss all my colleagues, the teamwork and support of everyone.

“I have lived and breathed the neonatal unit and I will be sad to leave, but I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can do.”

She said 2020 had been a year like no other with the impact of the pandemic adding extra responsibilities.

“The sense of responsibility to protect my staff has been huge, but families too, knowing the effects of having a baby on the neonatal unit at any time, let alone during a pandemic.”

Her personal career highlights include the outstanding rating given by the Care Quality Commission to the neonatal unit during the most recent inspection at the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust.

The neonatal unit is just one of eight in the country to achieve top marks in the National Neonatal Peer Review published in 2018.

Karen was also chosen to represent Colchester Hospital at an NHS at 70 celebration at Buckingham Palace. She attended an evening reception hosted by Prince Charles and said: “I was highly honoured as well as truly humbled to attend.”