Deputy head of nurse education Alison Wells, who has worked at The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust for eight years, has retired and colleagues bid farewell to her in a specially-commissioned video.
Prior to her latest post, Alison worked in the department as practice education facilitator (PEF) – clinical leadership for nurse education – after a spell being self employed, following a stint at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.
Before that she spent many years in her home city hospital and where she trained, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, before moving to the West Midlands.
It has been some journey for Alison, 60, who beat breast cancer in 2019 and has influenced hundreds of nurses’ lives and careers, as well as bringing that ‘f’ word – fun – to the workplace.
“I’ve always thought life is too short to take it too seriously,” said Alison.
“Sometimes I’ve got it wrong and it’s got me into trouble on more than one occasion.
“I remember a big meeting at Hollybush House and I said something which I thought was funny but I recall Cheryl Etches, former chief nurse, glared at me from over her glasses and describe it as ‘naughty’.”
Diagnosed in 2018, just when she had been appointed as acting head of nurse education, her cancer journey saw her off sick for six months while she underwent bouts of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, even still having radiotherapy after returning to work.
But she couldn’t have been more thankful for the care she received at the Davey Centre at Cannock Chase Hospital, where she had chemotherapy, and at New Cross, where she had surgery and recuperated in the Heart and Lung Centre.
Staff were united in their happy memories and respect for Alison, and on the day of her retirement, as a surprise, Building 12 was decked out with old photos – courtesy of husband Tim Gutteridge – banners and balloons.
There were visits from old colleagues, a secret Teams call featuring other staff members, before she was shown the video – which brought her to tears – a buffet lunch and a presentation.
Amid all the thank yous and good lucks for a well-deserved retirement, there were plenty of tributes reflecting Alison’s fun-loving nature – and her caffeine addiction, which was fed by a coffee machine in her office.
Debra Hickman, director of nursing at RWT, said: “You’ve always had a smile on your face, a positive attitude and brought fun.”
Kate Cheshire, head of midwifery and neonatal services, added: “Thanks for sharing your passion and enthusiasm for making leadership stronger in all areas of the trust, but especially within women’s and neonatal services.
“You made laughing while reflecting and learning a reality. I am grateful for your support and reassurance which allowed me to lead my way and not change who I fundamentally am.”
Cath Wilson, deputy director of nursing, whose three words to describe Alison were all ‘fun’ said: “You leave a great legacy for all the people you have supported and influenced over many years and all of the patients they have cared for. I will never forget your aversion to the phrase ‘going forward’ – it always made me laugh.”
Alison, who lives in South Staffordshire, is looking to spend her retirement travelling and seeing more of her family.
She wants to visit her four Northamptonshire-based grandchildren who age from two to 12, and visit France, where she and Tim, also 60 – who is due to retire as an instructor at RAF Cosford in July – have a home.
Alison hasn’t ruled out returning to The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust however.
“People have said ‘you’ll be back by September’ but that’s not part of the plan,” she insisted.
“But you never say never.
“I genuinely think the staff are really lovely and so friendly. I’ve worked at a lot of places and you don’t always get that.”