But Patricia Taylor said she was happy to see the derelict building bulldozed so work can start on a £600m project to build two new state-of-the art hospitals for Leeds and the wider region.
Mrs Taylor, 77, who lived in the nurses home for almost three years during her training at the hospital in the 1960s, joined in the celebrations by waving a green flag to signal the start of demolition on Thursday (Dec 3).
A digger broke into the roof of the former nurses’ home building to mark the start of the five-year project to build a new adults hospital and a brand-new home for Leeds Children’s Hospital.
Mrs Taylor was joined by seven-year-old Leeds Children's Hospital transplant patient Violet Lawson Chhokar, who won a design contest after using her experiences to think carefully about what would help her and other children in hospital.
Violet won the under eights section of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust's Daring Design fun competition, which gave children the opportunity to submit their design ideas for the new children's hospital.
Mrs Taylor, a great grandmother of four, was aged 18 when she moved into the nurses' home at the start of her training at Leeds General Infirmary in May 1961.
She said: "It was like living in a boarding school in some ways because you had quite a lot of restrictions.
"You had to be in by 10.30pm and you were only allowed a late pass until 11pm every so often.
"It was brilliant because you had all your friends there who were doing the same job as you.
"If you had any problems, or anything on the ward had upset you, you could speak to your friends about it. You supported each other."
Mrs Taylor, who worked at LGI and Cookridge as a staff nurse, added: "It was emotional watching demolition work start on the nurses' home.
"But we are going to have these brand new hospitals, so you have got to look to the future."
"The buildings at LGI are out of date. We are going to have these super new hospitals.The design looks fabulous."
Mrs Taylor, who is President of the LGI Nurses League, later worked as a sister in the community before going back into hospitals as a hospital tutor.
She finished her nursing career aged 47 in 1990 when she was assistant director of nursing education at LGI
The new hospitals are part of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s Hospitals of the Future project, one of six projects in the first wave of the UK Government’s Health Infrastructure Plan (HIP) - its national programme of healthcare capital investment.
The new adults hospital will deliver a range of health services including new day-case theatres and critical care facilities, and a new purpose-built children’s hospital, a first for Leeds bringing together services for children, young people, their families and carers.
Hospitals of the Future is one of six projects in the first wave of the UK Government’s Health Infrastructure Plan (HIP) - its national programme of healthcare capital investment.
The new buildings will be designed to offer patients modern, individual healthcare based on the most advanced treatments, technologies, innovation and research.
Dame Linda Pollard, chair of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are thrilled that work on our new hospitals has officially begun in what will be a huge investment in healthcare for patients and staff.
"We’re one of the first new hospital projects to get to this stage, and this exciting long-term development will change the way we think about hospital care in the future.
“The new development will provide our patients and staff with some of the most modern and forward-thinking environments in which to receive and deliver some of the world’s most advanced care and treatments.
“It will also bring about the exciting regeneration of the city centre in Leeds through an Innovation District that brings together new jobs and expertise.”
Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “These will be state-of-the-art patient-centred hospitals and everyone has worked really hard to get us to this point.
“I’m pleased that some of our young patients have been involved in coming up with ideas on the kind of hospital they would like to see, and we’ll be involving patients all along the way as we finalise the design and development over the coming year.”
The Trust has been awarded a share of £2.7 billion in the Government’s Health Infrastructure Plan (HIP) of which it is working on a total scheme cost of £600m.
The new buildings are expected to be completed in 2025.