A popular Walsall Healthcare maternity worker is celebrating 30 years of service with the NHS – and is still hungry for more.
The Beatles song ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ is all about winding down but for 64-year-old Kim Billingham, life is as busy as ever – even after retiring, because she came back to work!
Kim, from Short Heath, Willenhall, has been a Maternity Support Worker (MSW) for 25 years and has worked in Antenatal since she retired and returned to work nine years ago.
After leaving school, Kim starting work in clothes retailer Littlewoods in Walsall town centre during the week, but soon developed a bug for the NHS and Walsall Manor Hospital by working there in housekeeping at weekends.
Kim then spent three years in Clinical Support on the general side at the Manor, before joining Maternity as a MSW on Foxglove Ward on post-natal for several years.
Then the family went to live in Torquay for a year, when she worked on an Oncology ward. But Kim and husband Graham missed their extended family so much that they returned to the West Midlands and she got a job on Maternity at Sandwell Hospital, working on Delivery Suite for three years.
From there, she joined Community Midwifery Service at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and worked on the community as support to the midwives for five years before retiring.
Kim returned for three days a week on Antenatal, where she is part of a team of around 25, including midwives and ward clerks.
And she feels extremely proud to work for the NHS. “I’ve always felt the Manor was my place to be, so I was very happy to get a job back here,” said Kim. “I love to care for people and I think the NHS is a fabulous service. You want to care for and treat people the way you want to be cared for and treated yourself, and I try to do that.”
A mum to Sarah 43, and David 36, as well as a grandmother to six-year-old Harriet, Kim enjoys spending time with her family and her holidays.
Sarah has followed her into the NHS, as a Sister in Neonatal Unit at Heartlands Hospital – University Hospitals Birmingham. But Kim has no plans to hang up her own uniform for good yet.
“When I had my own kids, I felt a pull to Maternity and that was around the time I worked in housekeeping,” recalled Kim. “I saw a job advertised for Maternity Support Workers, so I applied for it and got it and at first, I worked night shifts.”
Over the years, the role of MSWs has changed to include more responsibilities, something Kim has welcomed.
“Our role has stepped up within our competence,” she said. “We do a lot in clinic that the midwives don’t need to do to allow them to concentrate on other things.
“We help run clinics, run screenings for outpatients, we do phlebotomy, we support the doctors and midwives and we run observations as well.
“But the added responsibilities are good for us because it means our experience has increased. It’s also a lot busier than it used to be years ago because the birth rate has gone up. There’s certainly no chance of being bored!”
But after so long at work, it’s the patients that hold the key to Kim’s enjoyment of the job.
“We see lots of mums and mums-to-be on a regular basis and, while most of them are healthy, some are poorly and sometimes it’s about giving them some reassurance, talking to them at their own pace and understanding what has gone on. It’s about treating them well,” added Kim.
“Some days are tougher than others and there’s not always a happy ending, but I want to carry on for as long as I can.”
As well as her love of holidays – which keeps her going at work – Kim enjoys walking their three-year-old chocolate labrador Ted with Graham, a driver, who she has been married to for 46 years. She has few if any regrets about the career path she has taken.
“Years ago I did think about going into midwifery, but I do like this role and it’s enough responsibility for me,” she said. “As it’s expanded, my responsibilities have grown. I’m quite happy doing it.”