‘I may be retiring, but I’ll be going back on the nurse bank!’

Caring is in the blood for 72-year-old nursing auxiliary Millie Riches who retires from hospital life today

She recalls with great fondness the time when she was asked by a senior nurse to leave the ward because she was ‘making the patients laugh too much’. She lights up when she recalls  another patient who refused to get out of bed, and was found dusting shortly afterwards using other patients’ underwear taken from their lockers.

As 72-year-old Mildred Riches, Millie to her friends, prepares to retire from hospital life, it’s clear she has a wealth of experience, memories and lasting friendships to take with her.

Millie is a nursing auxiliary, part of Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s pain management team working across East Riding Community Hospital and Castle Hill Hospital in Cottingham. She has spent the past nine years working as part of this close knit team, caring for people who need help with back pain, shoulder pain, and conditions such as sciatica and fibromyalgia.

She hasn’t always worked in the pain team, however; when Millie first joined the hospital trust way back in 1984, she began in orthopaedics. Over her 35 year career, she’s spent time in many other areas including elderly care, gynaecology, paediatrics and the eye clinic.

“There’ aren’t many places I haven’t worked over the years”, she jokes.

Millie, who lives in Hessle, has cared for hundreds if not thousands of people over the course of her career.

“I’ve always been a caring type of person so I’ve always been drawn to hospital roles. I may have dabbled in other jobs, but I’ve always come back to hospital life.

“I’ve worked in the Hull Royal tower block, at Princess Royal Hospital, in the IVF Unit and in the old Kingston General Hospital. In that time, I’ve met a lot of people; lots of patients come in very ill or depressed, so I’ve always seen it as my role to make them feel better.

“They say laughter is the best medicine and I’ve had so many laughs with patients over the years; I was once asked to go off the ward when I worked in gynaecology by the Sister because I was making the women laugh too much; I literally had patients in stitches in stitches!

“But it’s also the little things that make people feel valued and cared for; when I worked in the elderly day centre at Kingston General, I could be doing anything from bathing a patient to cutting their nails or doing their hair. People often feel better inside if they’re presentable outside, and I used to love making people feel nice and comfortable; it really has been a lifelong passion of mine.”

When asked what she plans to do in retirement, there was no hesitation for Millie:

“I’ll be asking to come back on the nurse bank!

“I really love my job, and I’m not just saying that. I’m proud to work for the hospital trust and I shall really miss the people that I work with and the patients that I see. I can’t sit down all day, I need to keep busy, so I’m still hoping to come back for a few hours a week.”

Further probing reveals Millie has a partner, Kevin, two sons, four grandchildren, and two great grandchildren with a third due any day now.

“It will be nice to spend more time with the family”, she says. “I’ve always enjoyed cake decorating so that’s something I might look into again, I like bird watching, and I keep asking my partner for a dog, so maybe that’s something I can keep pestering him for…”

And when asked what advice she’d give to nursing staff just starting out in the profession, Millie keeps it simple:

“You just need to get on with it. Be strong, take an interest in people, be your own person, and enjoy your work and your patients.

“If I could have my time again, I would do my full nurse training, but I really can’t complain as I’ve absolutely loved it, I’ve loved my time in the health service.”

And the scores of people who saw Millie off at a special lunchtime gathering today; current and former colleagues and family members; are testament to just how popular and how well respected this lady this.

There may be the odd tear of sadness in contrast to the many years of laughter, but her eyes won’t be cloudy for long; no doubt she’ll be wanting to arrange her next shift.