Hettie Hopkins: Highly respected nurse and educator
Monday 20 February 2012
Motorcycling nurse Hettie Hopkins set up a national board for Wales for the Royal College of Nursing. Then, progressing to a small car, she also raised the money for a new RCN headquarters in Cardiff.
As a teenager Hopkins had planned to be an artist and she obtained a place at Tulle House Art College, Carlisle. Then she suddenly had doubts: what if she didn't achieve? Her mother had been a children's nurse, and when her father wished her goodnight one evening, she said to him, as he blew out the candle: "I think I'm going to do nursing." He replied, "We'll see about nursing in the morning," accepting her change of tack.
Too young at 17 for general nurse training, she applied to the Children's Hospital and the Ear, Nose and Throat Hospitals in Liverpool, and was accepted by the latter. She was homesick but did well in the exams. For her general training she went to Leeds Infirmary, rejecting the Royal London and St Bartholomew's hospitals in London because they stipulated the hairstyles student nurses should have. She took her final state exam in 1941 just after her brother had been drowned at sea in the war. She chose the Simpson Pavilion of the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, for her midwifery training under the midwifery textbook author and teacher Maggie Miles. She remembered that the application form stated: "N.B. You are advised to bring your own tea tray".
It was as a maternity ward sister at Whitehaven Hospital near her parents' home that Hopkins was asked by the matron to take over the preliminary training school, and so started on a nurse training career which took her to the London teaching hospital, St Mary's, Paddington, and then to Cardiff Royal Infirmary. She also became involved in the Royal College of Nursing.
In 1963 the RCN established its Welsh Board, for which Hopkins had campaigned, and she was appointed secretary. She toured Wales, recruiting and raising funds to build a Welsh headquarters for the College, Ty Maeth. When she retired in 1978 she did not want a present but money to establish a scholarship fund to boost projects for the care of the elderly in Wales; Hettie Hopkins Scholarships continue to be awarded. She was appointed OBE in recognition of her services to nursing, and in retirement continued to take an interest in nursing, studying for a BSc at the Open University.
Hettie Hopkins, nurse and nursing trainer: born Abertridwr, near Caerphilly 18 November 1919; Secretary, Welsh Board of the Royal College of Nursing; died Newport 2 February 2012.
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