Nelson GP Janice Jolly is hanging up her stethoscope after 38 years. Photo: Kate Russell.

Longstanding GP retires after 38 years


After 38 years of being a GP in Nelson, the thing Janice Jolly is going to miss the most is the relationships.

The 66-year-old hung up the stethoscope for good last week to spend more time with family.

“I’ve got two new grandchildren coming that need a bit of extra help from me, so that was the incentive.”

Janice says she is “excited and sad at the same time” to be leaving the profession.

“To me, the standout has been the relationships I’ve made with people and hoping and knowing I’ve made a difference in their lives.

“Someone last week said that she thinks of me like her mum. She said, ‘you know things about me that nobody else does’.”

After growing up in Wellington and then training at Otago University, Janice and her husband Ken came to Nelson in 1979.

“We didn’t know the top of the South Island. We came here to see what it was like and didn’t leave.”

She did her GP registrar year while Ken worked as a house surgeon at Nelson Hospital. In 1982 they bought their first general practice.

“Initially I worked one day a week and saw all the pregnant ladies and delivered the babies, and I kept doing that while I had my own children.”

After about five years Ken became unwell, so Janice started working full time as well as being a mum to four children.

She also kept up the obstetrics for 33 years and was the last GP delivering babies in Nelson when she stopped in 2014.

She estimates she’s delivered thousands of babies, often working through the night and then having to go to work the next day to see her other patients.

“It was just what I did. I loved it. Many of the babies are big adults now and there are multiple generations of them.”

All three of her practices have been on Waimea Rd – the first where the bakery is now.

Then 52 Waimea Rd and then number 44 when she teamed up with GP Liz Scott three years ago.

Over the past week she’s been contacted by numerous patients, who have all had memories to share.

“Somebody mentioned that I’d saved their child’s life and it was something that I’d forgotten. It’s been nice hearing stories back from people.”

Janice says Covid-19 has been the biggest event of her medical career and that much has changed in the profession over the years.

“Work is much busier. People have more complex problems. We used to look at an afternoon and go ‘oh great, there’s one kid with a sore ear’ and things could be quick.

“Mental health issues are more common and they’re not something you can rush somebody through in 15 minutes.”

Even though she says she’ll miss the job, she is “looking forward to the next stage”.

She leaves for Australia this week, with her three Melbourne-based children all fighting over who gets to pick her up from the airport.

“I’ve really loved being a GP – it’s been my life. But now it’s time to be a grandma.”