12th May 2020 marks 200 years since the birth of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. To mark such an occasion, Gibraltar Nursing Home, Monmouth, are sharing the stories of some of our former nurses who now call Gibraltar their home.
Principle A of the Nurses Practice is ‘to treat everyone in their care with dignity and humanity, understanding their individual needs, show compassion and sensitivity, and provide care in a way respects all people equally.’
With this in mind, it’s almost inevitable that this instinct of compassion and caring never fades in a nurse however long they have been out of their profession. One of these compassionate and caring former nurses is Gibraltar Nursing Home’s Barbara Jones.
Born on 6th May 1933 in nearby Tredegar, Barbara lived with her parents until the age of 15, when they moved to Newport. Barbara stayed in Tredegar with her Aunty Beattie to finish her studies at the Tredegar grammar school, where she first met the love of her live and future husband – Clive.
After she had finished at Tredegar grammar school, Barbara, considering her career options, took inspiration from Clive’s stepmother Hilda who was a nurse and a midwife. Enthused by her passion for nursing, Barbara began training to be a State Registered Nurse (SRN) as it was known in those days. She began her training at the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, living in Richmond House, which is now the Diabetes Clinic.
Here is where Barbara met her two friends Ada (who became a health visitor) and Beryl (a midwife, who spent her career at the Royal Gwent) and they became her lifelong friends. “Although not keen on working on Friday and Saturday nights in A&E, she had many happy memories of her time training alongside her close friends,” her daughter Ruth remembers.
The trio of best friends all graduated together on the 3rd August 1954, and a year later Barbara, aged 22, married Clive in her hometown of Tredegar before celebrating their honeymoon in Looe, Cornwall.
Barbara had the first of her two children, Ruth in 1956 and her brother Chris in 1959 and it was then that she started working as a district nurse in Caldicot, and as she hadn’t learnt to drive at this time, Clive drove her, and the children, to the all her patient’s homes over the weekends.
“She had a sterilising pan on the stove when all her equipment, her syringes, needles, scissors, kidney bowls were cleaned ready for the next day,” her daughter Ruth, recalls of the time.
Ruth remembers quite clearly the impact she had on those around her during her time working in the community in Caldicot.
“Barbara was much loved by the community, as she was very caring, an excellent nurse and would listen to people’s stories and help people in whatever way she could. She is a Christian and would encourage people to come to prayer group and to church, and many did come. She had a beautiful singing voice and sang in the choir.”
Sadly, Clive passed at the tender age of 41, during an era when cancer was not talked about and modern-day treatment was only in its infancy however Barbara took care of him throughout his illness.
Following Clive’s passing Barbara continued to work in the district, but things began to change. Despite years’ worth of experience, district nurses were asked to take a new exam to qualify, which Barbara declined. After taking some weeks off with illness, on her return to work, there was a new nursing officer who wanted to shadow her on her rounds.
“This was when Barbara lost confidence in her ability to give injections and retired through ill health. I am sure she would have been helped through this difficult time today,” shared her daughter Ruth.
Despite being retired, Ruth confirms she maintained living by the practices of a nurse to all but herself. “Barbara made sure that everyone took their medication, but sadly, when it came to her having to take it, knew all the tricks of the trade to avoid it!”
At Gibraltar Nursing Home, where Barbara, who now lives with a dementia, has lived for over three and a half years, the team recognise the importance of a person’s previous occupation and the central role that plays in a person’s identity. Wherever a person is on their journey with dementia, having meaningful familiar items that are important to that individual can create reminiscence.
Jane, a member of the care team at Gibraltar who has a wonderful relationship with Barbara and recalls many a time of her reminiscing and giving her care advice from her days in nursing.
“Every now and then Barbara will ponder over to some of the medical equipment and she will fondly talk about nursing. Barbara will also come over when I’m taking supplies out from the medical cabinet and will sometimes give me a hand with placing bandages. I love her, it’s so nice to hear Barbara reflect on her nursing career.”
Gibraltar Nurse, Nicola, has shared similar experiences of care and compassion “Barbara must have asked me if I was okay ten times on my first night shift, she was sat supervising me!”
‘Once a nurse, always a nurse’ for Barbara, as she continues to demonstrate with her preservation of the values of Principle A, a continued compassion and care for everyone who she encounters. Gibraltar Nursing Home salutes all the amazing support that nurses and carers throughout the country have done and continue to do in service of those in need – Ms. Nightingale would be proud.
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