Goodbye to our much-loved Matron, Susan Williams

24th September 2020

The Royal Hospital’s Matron and Registered Manager, Susan Williams, has been a key part of our community for 10 years, so both Pensioners and staff are very sad to say goodbye to her. Here she shares some memories and explains what has been so special about working for an outstanding care home in a unique community. 

Goodbye to Matron Susan Williams
“The Royal Hospital’s care home exceeded all my expectations”

When I saw this post advertised, I was working in the private sector. I welcomed the opportunity to look after people who had actually done something really significant at the Royal Hospital.

When I arrived, it exceeded all my expectations. The place was spotless and everybody was proud to wear their uniform. I was also astounded that if I needed something, I could have it from the get-go. So, if a Pensioner had a fall, I could have access to a GP, a physio and pain relief, all within hours, which made a huge difference to their rehabilitation. It’s an amazing support system for veterans.

“The complete respect from the Pensioners was amazing”

I found I was looking after veterans who didn’t generally share what was going wrong. Some were coping well with their medical problems and others were really poorly. I enjoyed getting to know everybody. 

During my ward rounds, the veteran on the bed would try to stand up when the doctor and I came into the room. That complete respect was amazing – I hadn’t seen that from people I’d looked after before.

One memory I’ll treasure happened very recently. I met a Pensioner shortly after I arrived, who said he thought he was finished and hadn’t got long to go. After we’d talked through how he felt about that, he carried on and didn’t die. Ten years on, I chatted to that same Pensioner and he remembers that conversation as clearly as I do. It brought a lump to my throat.

“Everybody here is invested in the place”

The pomp and ceremony here are very special – I like the traditions. Whether it’s someone coming for an interview, or royalty visiting, they are all impressed. Everybody working here is invested in the place and cares about the Pensioners – you can see it in the care and in the camaraderie. People say ‘hello’ as you walk past and if there’s a piece of rubbish on the ground, they pick it up. It’s a unique place.

I love the Pensioners’ stories!  One that was both sad and happy followed a recent death on one of our nursing wards. We make a huge effort to make sure friends hear news like this before everybody else, so I came to tell a Pensioner his mate had died.

He said to me, “Matron, I thought he was going to die in 1946 when I was in a dug-out and he was in a bomb crater. It’s very sad he’s died today, but the fact he lasted another 50 years is great.”

“My team has been amazing”

My team here has been amazing. They really care about the people they look after and work together. When we have Care Quality Commission inspections we prepare together and celebrate together. I’m proud of the four ‘outstandings’ we’ve been awarded – that’s down to the people I work with. They come to me and tell me the truth – that’s a culture I’ve worked hard to achieve. I tell my team, “If you’ve made a mistake, we can fix it, but you need to tell me!”

We try to go the extra mile to show we appreciate our staff. It’s not all about the big things, during the Covid crisis the first thing we gave them was hand cream, to try to look after all the hands being rubbed raw with gel.   

The other teams within the hospital have been very supportive, we had great banter over the years, and that makes a huge difference to your working day in what can be quite emotional environment.

“I’ve been very proud to be Matron of the Royal Hospital”

My intention now is to retire. I’m going to live a country life in the Cotswolds and see more of my grandchildren. I’ll miss the camaraderie here, the sheer happiness and the beauty of the Royal Hospital – from the lights in the evening to the changing colours of the trees.

It’s very sad to be leaving the Pensioners. I’ve become known as ‘the huggy Matron’ and one of my regrets is I haven’t been able to hug anybody since March. 

I’ve been very proud to be the Matron of the Royal Hospital and don’t think I could have got a better final gig as a matron and care home manager.

Susan has enjoyed a warm farewell, from a march-out by the Pensioners to celebrations with the staff. She will be greatly missed but we look forward to welcoming our new Matron.

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