30 Years: In Sickness, Health & Humour

I worked for Southmead Hospital for thirty years, first part-time and then full. Though, saying full-time is a bit of a misnomer as sometimes it was 60 hours or more a week! Having been diagnosed with cancer, I still spend many hours in NHS hospitals, this time as a patient.

Why did I love working in the NHS? I personally wanted to help people in whatever capacity I could and when you get involved with patients and staff it’s a wonderful thing. Yes, it could be stressful, and as the old cliché says I was ‘overworked and underpaid’ – but it was fulfilling. My staff were like my second family and I was very sad when I retired.

I have also seen many changes over the years: basic VDUs to high tech computers systems; the old hospital pulled down and the new Brunel  building rising from the ashes; and the
modernising of patient records. I experienced many sad, funny and unforgettable moments in my capacity as Health Records Manager and if I had time and the talent could probably write a book. Here are a few short stories.

One of my staff had an appointment with a gynaecologist first thing in the morning and would arrive to work a little late. She arrived, as promised, somewhat flustered and embarrassed. Apparently, she had showered that morning, sprayed deodorant with what she thought was a ‘feminine spray’ and went for her appointment. Upon having her examination the consultant said to her, “Why Mrs Smith, you really shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble for me!” Not knowing to what he was referring to she proceeded to get dressed. Pulling up her knickers she noticed that there was pink glitter all over them. She had mistakenly used her daughter’s hair glitter spray all over her private bits!

New doctors were also known to get things wrong. When a patient suffered from a cardiac arrest we were alerted by our bleeps as to which ward to attend. One night I left the Admissions office to attend a ward and came across a young doctor frantically asking where Arthur Roger ward was located. Now the old Southmead wards were all known by letters of the alphabet – C, D, E and so on – and she mistakenly had heard Arthur Roger ward when it was actually “Go to R for Roger ward!”

A & E also had its fair share of incidents, some of which I could not put in this magazine. One which stood out in my mind was when a patient was brought in by ambulance face down on the stretcher with a blanket covering something protruding from his posterior area. It turned out that he had an aerial stuck. The ambulance men were laughing so much that they almost dropped him. Perhaps his reception was poor!