A Day in the Life: Nurse

From welcoming premature arrivals to being on the front line, Helen Wharley tells us why, after 20 years at Longleat Forest, she still has to ‘expect the unexpected’

Helen, left, and the rest of her team from the early days
Helen, left, and the rest of her team from the early days
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Helen, left, and the rest of her team from the early days
Helen, left, and the rest of her team from the early days

My Center Parcs history
I’m a Sister at Longleat Forest’s Medical Centre and have been working here since the day the Village opened, 20 years ago. I’m responsible for overseeing and managing guest and staff care every day. Although Center Parcs is a family short break destination, we can’t forget that it’s also a forest. Because of that, it’s important to have on-Village medical support to deal with accidents and emergencies.

My motto is ‘expect the unexpected’, because at any given time, anybody can come with any sort of ailment. It can range from toddlers being unwell, to trips and falls right through to heart attacks. It’s so varied – from birth to death. On average, I come into contact with around 40 people each day. The most common problem I deal with is a general viral illness, coughs and colds, things like that.

The nice thing about working here instead of, for example, a doctor’s surgery, is that my time with patients is only dictated by the number of those waiting. Unlike the NHS where doctors and nurses have strict targets to adhere to – around 10 minutes per patient – I’m able to connect with my patients and get to know them, which can really make a difference in getting to the root of the problem.

You might be surprised to know…
I was a nursing officer in the RAF for 11 years, before I started working at Center Parcs. I guess that might be a bit surprising! I worked on a ward and spent two years as an air and medical nurse, flying all over the world. I worked overseas in Cyprus for 18 months, which was fantastic.

My motto is ‘expect the unexpected’…It’s so varied – from birth to death

It was completely different to anything I’d ever experienced. When you’re out there, you are the front line – there was no doctor, just me and another nursing colleague. It was very interesting, a rapid turnover of patients. It was a high-pressure environment and gave me good footing for working in intensive situations. I still call upon that today; I love to be busy and always on the move.

Why I’ve been here since the beginning

To be honest, it doesn’t feel like 20 years. It feels so fast, probably because it’s always busy. You know what they say – time flies! People ask me this all time, what’s so great about the company, have you ever thought about moving et cetera. The truth is, if I was unhappy I’d move, but I don’t need to. I have a great mixture of patient care, staff care and management and that balance swings each day, so my day is always interesting.

It comes down to the variety of work too. Center Parcs has given me a much wider scope than just nursing; my role has expanded into health and safety, managing, the Village council, European works council as well as food safety and first aid. Even after 20 years, Center Parcs continue to broaden me from my natural role – they have given me the opportunity to develop and I’ll always be grateful for that.

Even after 20 years, Center Parcs continue to broaden me from my natural role

But besides all that, just look at the place! It’s such a beautiful place to work. The feeling of camaraderie emanates from every corner, not just in my own department but across the entire Village. You feel like you’re genuinely involved in the business and that’s missing in most other workplaces.

My proudest moment
I’ve had many, but the one that stands out in my mind was the safe arrival of a premature baby around 13 or 14 years ago. I can remember it like it was yesterday: baby Chloe, born on December 22. She was seven weeks early; her parents thought they’d have one last break alone before their lives changed forever. But the baby had other ideas! I’m not a trained midwife and haven’t had any experience in delivering a baby since 1978 so it was nerve wracking, but fantastic to be involved in.

Chloe and her family have actually been back a couple of times since. When she was 11 they visited and popped into the Medical Centre. Longleat Forest obviously holds a lot of happy memories for them.

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  • Julie Prince

    Longleat was the first Centerparcs we ever went to about 4 or 5 years ago. My husband was on oxygen 24/7 and Centerparcs was great for being able to have oxygen delivered etc, and I remember us visiting Sister Wharley one day to pick up an oxygen cylinder for outdoor use, as she looked after them at the medical centre and hubby had actually run out of his current one, but she was so calm and efficient that he didn’t panic as he would sometimes. We have since been to a few of the other Centerparcs, but hubby passed away last year, but we always agreed Longleat and their staff including Sister Wharley were the best!

    • Julie Prince

      Longleat was the first Centerparcs we ever went to about 4 or 5 years ago. My husband was on oxygen 24/7 and Centerparcs was great for being able to have oxygen delivered etc, and I remember us visiting Sister Wharley one day to pick up an oxygen cylinder for outdoor use, as she looked after them at the medical centre and hubby had actually run out of his current one, but she was so calm and efficient that he didn’t panic as he would sometimes. We have since been to a few of the other Centerparcs, but hubby passed away last year, but we always agreed Longleat and their staff including Sister Wharley were the best!

  • K Cook

    As a student nurse sitting here ploughing through the final stages of my dissertation I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I just wished I lived closer to a Center Parcs so I could aim to work somewhere with such a good vibe! I hope that my family don’t require the medical teams’ assistance but it is good to know we would be in good hands.

    • Amy Dickson

      Thanks for your comment Kat. We’re very lucky to have such a fantastic team of experts at Center Parcs. Good luck with the rest of your dissertation!

Amy Dickson

Post Author:
Amy Dickson

As Brand Content Manager I plan, create and curate the best articles, photos, videos and music for our channels, in particular the blog. With a degree in Journalism under my belt and many years’ experience in the big smoke as a journalist and editor, my focus is firmly on discovering the little gems hidden away in Center Parcs life, before buffing them up to make them sparkle online. From on-village events to the latest travel industry trends, I’ll be there – notepad in hand – to bring you the most entertaining and interesting stories.