Howard Straughen-Simpson joined the NHS as a cadet nurse in 1962 when he was just 17 years old and has recently finally retired from his most recent role supporting colleagues in Lincolnshire’s hospitals.
Howard said: “The foundation I was given when I first started was invaluable and really helped me throughout my career. I really enjoyed the practical side of caring for patients and it helped me to understand what was required to join the nursing profession, which I did the following year when I was 18 and started my nurse training.
“I have always been proud to be a nurse. It has never been well paid, and when I started my nurse training my salary for the year was £290, however the feeling of helping others provided me with immeasurable reward, and that has never gone away.
“The one thing I would say is that I would do the same if I had my time again. I have no regrets at all. To anyone thinking about joining the profession, starting as a cadet nurse is brilliant. It gives you an opportunity to learn all about the job and it shows you the reality of what is involved. I realise that students in nursing train in other ways, but the principle in my mind remains the same, that one must know what is involved in the science and art of nursing and the impact those two aspects can have on a person.”
Howard was born in Wales and started his training as a general nurse at Mount Vernon and Harefield Hospitals in North London. Part of his general training involved nursing patients with tuberculosis and caring for patients with burns using plastic surgery. Once qualified he worked as a nurse in London and Hull and a charge nurse in London in trauma. Howard went on to qualify as a mental health nurse at the Maudsley Hospital and Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. The focus on the mental health and wellbeing of patients is something that really interested Howard and inspired much of his career.
Howard has been generous in sharing his knowledge and experience. He was a nursing lecturer in both London and the midlands, in his roles as a senior nurse tutor and assistant director of nurse education where he realised the importance of supporting colleagues throughout their careers and not just during their initial training.
This inspired Howard to take his experience into counselling and psychology and he completed a Masters in Human Relations, as well as a Masters in Philosophy, in Applied Psychology. All of these were done while also working in the NHS in a variety of roles supporting patients and colleagues.
Howard added: “I have had an incredible career. From my days of living in nurses’ accommodation to lecturing and supporting colleagues, the camaraderie I have felt and seen first-hand has been truly inspirational.
“I have learnt so much about myself. Nursing is a career where things change all of the time. We are constantly learning as we see advances in technology and treatments. The one thing that never changes is the relationship that a nurse has with their patients. It is a privilege and so important. We must never lose the artistry of nursing and that personal touch.
“I have been privileged for the last 30 years to be able to support my colleagues in the NHS with the aim to help keep them well. This has then enabled them to continue caring for their patients and to do the job that they love.”
When most people would be planning their retirement, Howard joined United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust in 2008 as a Senior Psychotherapist and spent many years supporting students, qualified nurses and NHS colleagues across the county.
During the COVID pandemic Howard spent his time supporting NHS staff on the front line by going to different units and some wards and providing a listening ear. He said: “I saw for myself what they were going through supporting patients and families and my role was to support them. We were all in it together and that is what nursing is all about.”
To mark his retirement, colleagues at United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust presented Howard with a replica of the George Cross medal that was awarded to the NHS by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.