SISTER BARBARA MITCHELL
In Conversation With Lilian Middleton
Beveridge Street Surgery
After much persuasion by Dr James Shirreffs who was a customer at her husband
Donald's High Street garage, Sister Mitchell joined the Beveridge Street practice in 1969.
She was there 'just to answer the telephone' at evening surgery.
So began a 34 year career in Barrow which has given her an unrivalled insight into the
changing face of healthcare in our village as she became the first Practice Nurse in the
county. After just one week her duties expanded as she organised and developed
the nursing services. These grew from syringing ears in her 'cubby hole' under the
stairs to dressing wounds, removing sutures and all general surgical procedures. Her
immunisation and vaccination sessions replaced those run by the doctors on Sunday
mornings where patients queued up the stairs, across the waiting room and spilled out into
Beveridge Street lined with prams and pushchairs. She ordered all stocks and hand
wrote repeat prescriptions as her work extended to morning, afternoon and evening
Dr Shirreffs, Dr Earl, receptionist Jean Worthington, one midwife/district
nurse and helper plus Barbara formed a small close knit team
who worked well together. It was a hectic but happy time.
Each doctor worked very long hours, especially when the other
was on holiday, being on 24 hour and weekend callout. One
day there were 90 home visits during a flu epidemic. How they
would have welcomed the present out of hours locum services.
One day there were 90 home visits during
a flu epidemic. How they would have welcomed the present
out of hours locum services.
Dr Eva Shirreffs and Barbara attended a 1970's
conference where the provision of Health Centres and their
facilities were discussed. After a lengthy incubation period
Barrow Health Centre was one of the first to open in Leicestershire
in 1980. Imagine the excitement of moving to new purpose built
premises with three sitting doctors, treatment rooms, large
waiting and reception areas and refrigerators to store vaccines
etc. Dr Nick Simpson joined the practice when Dr Shirreffs
retired due to ill health. District nurses, school nurses,
health visitors and midwives were based there and a practice
Sister Mitchell highlighted the importance of the specialist clinics which have targeted,
monitored and improved patients' health including:
- Asthma clinic - helping patients to control their asthma
- Diabetes Clinic - Monitoring blood pressure levels which has reduced the incidence of strokes
- Vaccination Clinic established as travellers needed antimalarial, hepatitis, yellow fever
rabies and cholera information and injections
More operations were performed by our doctors assisted by Sister Mitchell. More back
up has come from computers for keeping patient records and generating prescriptions.
Machines to test blood sugar levels, heart monitoring and pH laboratory tests have
Asked to reminisce, Barbara recalled the grey floppy baby suffering from whooping cough
that she and Dr Earl resuscitated. She recently received a bouquet from a happy bride who
had not forgotten her lifesaver. The majority of babies were delivered at home by a
midwife.The doctor attended for difficult cases. A home delivery is now a rarity.
Many piles of adoption papers required the doctors to assess the suitability of prospective
parents. The advent of the pill as a reliable contraceptive and abortion referral has seen
the number of babies for adoption dramatically reduced. The first hip replacement patient in the county was a
Barrow lady, and the progress in heart bypass and open heart surgery is incredible.
Altered perceptions have led to more demanding
and to some abusive patients necessitating warning notices...
Patients need to be more patient!
Altered perceptions have led to more demanding and to some abusive patients
necessitating warning notices. Staff need to be able to defuse situations. Patients need to
be more patient! Too much time is taken up keeping copious notes to establish
accountability and resist any possible litigation.
Following 'in house' training Sister Mitchell became a nurse practitioner easing the strain
on the doctors and she has enjoyed her extended responsibilities. In her retirement
she has started pastoral work alongside Rev David Leese visiting care home residents.
Travel, gardening, reading and spending time with grandchildren can now enjoy higher
Barbara sums up her career as 'Wonderful, the patients have made it so rewarding!’ By
treating them with her quiet kindness she has earned the admiration and respect of her
many grateful patients.