How Helen still loves her job – even after 46 years of nursing

Communications TeamNews

When you ask what she loves most about her job, Helen Tointon, a paediatric specialist nurse looking after children with respiratory problems, doesn’t hesitate.

“Patients, families and my colleagues,” she says.

It’s plain to see Helen still feels passionate about her job and her patients after starting her career at a time when the UK first entered the European Economic Community, an Elvis Presley concert in Hawaii was watched by more people than those who watched the moon landings and Hull’s trawlers were engaged in the Cod Wars with Iceland.

Starting her career in 1973, Helen is one of the longest-serving nurses working for Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust as the organisation prepares to mark International Nurses Day on May 12, the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

This year also marks 100 years since the creation of the Nurses Registration Act in 1919 which set up the General Nursing Council and established training standards of nurses.

Trust archivist Mike Pearson will be exhibiting documents, photographs and artefacts to chart Hull’s nursing history outside Kingston Restaurant at Hull Royal on Friday.

Helen started her pupil training as a State Enrolled Nurse in 1975 after two years in nurses’ residence as a Buttercup cadet nurse.

She qualified in 1977 and spent five years on Ward 4 at Hull Royal looking after men with traumatic orthopaedic injuries. From there, she moved into children’s nursing spending her first two years on night shift before transferring to day duties.

She is married and brought up her three sons, at one time all three of them under five, while holding down her job.

In 1996, her nursing officer encouraged all enrolled nurses in the paediatric nursing team to study to become a registered children’s nurse and she qualified in 1998.

But she knew academia was a way to build up her knowledge so embarked on a series of training modules and qualifications to enhance her skills in paediatric nursing.

She helped to develop an acute pathway for children admitted to hospital with asthma and between 2009 and 2018, she split her time between her hospital nursing job and her advanced learning at the University of Hull, obtaining a degree first then going on to secure a Masters in Leadership in Health and Social Care.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself when I finally finished last year,” she said. “I’ve done all the painting at home because I was at a loss to fill my time.”

At work, Helen runs three nurse-led clinics a week, seeing youngsters with respiratory problems in children’s outpatients at Hull Women and Children’s Hospital. She also takes part in multi-disciplinary team clinics once a week.

Although she splits her time between Women and Children’s and Hull Royal, she’s based herself on the top floor of the tower block to be close to medical and nursing staff dealing with admissions, able to liaise and assess treatment plans for patients.

Helen said: “Everyone always asks me when I am retiring but I’m not thinking about that yet.

“I’m always learning things. I have never got to the point where I think I know it all.

“Every day, I come away and think I need to do some reflection on that or I could have approached something better. I never come away where I think I’ve got nothing more to learn.”