From starting as a Cadet Nurse at the age of 16, Helen Lowiss has spent the last 50 years caring for patients in Somerset and she wouldn’t change a thing.

Helen’s career

“I spent two years as a Cadet Nurse from 1971 before becoming a trainee State Registered Nurse (as we were know then) in 1973, just as the new Yeovil Hospital building opened. The training took three years and I failed the written exam but passed the practical. This was before degrees were needed for nursing, but my hands-on training set me up for a fantastic career. In 1976 I enrolled as a Registered Nurse.”

“I loved my time training and those friendships we made still remain now – in fact I’m the only one still to retire!”

“Throughout the years I have worked as a geriatric nurse caring for the elderly at Summerlands Hospital, an Occupational Health Nurse in Crewkerne and in the old South Petherton Hospital in the orthopaedic rehab team.”

Helen married in 1979, had her first daughter in 1982, divorced then remarried him again before having her second daughter in 1986. “Before my second daughter I had a miscarriage and while I was being looked after on the gynae ward at Yeovil Hospital I got chatting to the Sister who convinced me to join the nurse bank. This meant I could build up my confidence working in an acute hospital. I ended up working permanently on 6A and in 1990, I re-sat my finals all by myself. This time I passed and within 6 months I was a senior staff nurse on 6A, then on to the Junior Sister role. I then covered the Senior Sister position until I was offered the permanent ‘Lead Nurse’ role for the ward.”

In 2001, Helen moved with a team from 7B to open the new Emergency Admissions Unit (EAU) on 8B. “It was slightly strange as we had surgical and orthopaedic teams setting up a new medical ward but we were only supposed to be there for a short time and would rotate. We all loved it so much we stayed on EAU. Later that year, I moved into a Sister role on 9B, the respiratory ward and then in 2006 I came back to EAU, moving down the pay scale but getting back to having more contact with the patients – the reason I came into nursing!”

What has been your toughest moment?

“There is no question that the last year, working through the pandemic, has been the hardest part of my whole career. I missed the first ten weeks as I was off due to problems with my knees so coming back in to a world of PPE and constant changes was a huge shock to get my head around but we all worked as a team, supporting each other, and that’s what has kept us going.

“Gowning up and removing the PPE, then putting it all back on again… it’s exhausting, and when patients with COVID-19 start struggling, they deteriorate very quickly. It has been physically and emotionally draining. I never expected my last year to be like this, but there are up sides too. You get to see patients recovering and improving, and you can build up a relationship with them. This has been very important as we are the COVID “hot” ward our patients are unable to have visitors so we have to provide additional support.


The last 15 years on EAU have been fantastic, although I certainly didn’t expect my last year of nursing to be like the one we have just had through the pandemic. I do feel like it is time to retire but I will miss nursing and the team – thecamaraderie on the wards and in the nursing profession is amazing. There really is nothing like it.”

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