“It’s the little things that have made my time so special.”
Paediatric Senior Sister Karen Allen has many fond memories from her 43-year NHS career and says working with so many wonderful children and young people has felt like an extension of her own family.
Karen, who has worked for the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust for the majority of her career, has also spent the last few months with Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, and retired last Friday 24 February.
She said: “I have seen young patients who have grown up and come back with children of their own and I have been so proud to welcome young trainees who say their experience in hospital made them want to give something back and start their own nursing journey. To hear that just makes your day!
“I have my own two children but you do feel like you’re a proud mum to everyone and they’re part of your own family. And when I see colleagues progressing and developing and I see improvements that we have all worked on together I can think of nothing better.
“I do remember one little girl leaving us after surgery and she said: “Thank you for having me.” How lovely. It’s these little things that have made my time so special.”
Karen started her career at the age of 17 when she did her ophthalmic training before going to Wolverhampton’s eye infirmary and completing her general training in Coventry. She came back to Wolverhampton in 1986 and worked at Penn Children’s Hospital before going to what was then the Royal Hospital in Wolverhampton before moving to New Cross Hospital where she has been since. Last October, she came to Walsall Manor Hospital to support the team following leadership changes.
“I went into ophthalmic training to start with as nursing training didn’t start until the age of 18 – to me, it was a good way to get round this. It was while I was at Penn in particular that I realised I really wanted to be in paediatric nursing. There can be some difficult times – no-one likes to see children poorly – but we all support each other and I have been privileged to work with the best colleagues.
“The team at Walsall has also been so warm and welcoming; I have really enjoyed my time here. My heart is in Wolverhampton, obviously, after such a long time spent there but I have thoroughly enjoyed being at the Manor Hospital.”
Karen plans to relax more and “find some hobbies” in her retirement although she will continue to support colleagues in Walsall via the Trust’s temporary nurse staffing bank.
Victoria Harrison, Paediatric Matron for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Karen’s calm presence, kind nature and reassuring support has helped bring stability to the unit.
“She has been an instrumental figure in ensuring that paediatric elective surgery could proceed following the paediatric respiratory and strep A surge at the end of last year. We wish her all the best with her retirement but are delighted that she has agreed to continue to come and support us. Forty-three years of NHS service is a remarkable achievement. Thank you, Karen, for your dedication.”