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In Conversation With...Gill Kingsnorth, clinical research assistant

In Conversation With...Gill Kingsnorth, clinical research assistant

Here is the next instalment of our series: In Conversation With…Gill Kingsnorth, clinical research assistant, who retires this month after 42 years at our Trust.

She started out as a cardiographer, before moving into research when she had her eldest child. The best thing about working in clinical research? ‘To see it make a difference to our patients – they become a different person’.

Lucky Gill plans to spend her retirement travelling the globe!

Age: 61

Lives: In Gidea Park with husband Paul, 65, who runs a bathroom fitting company.  She’s also mum to Matt, 38, and Vicky, 35, and grandmother to one-year-old Eva.

And: Gill’s colleagues kept everyone entertained at her leaving party by showing a film of them performing I Will Survive – with the words changed to reflect her retirement!

What’s your role at our Trust?

I support our Clinical Research team, doing whatever is needed. So that could be admin, supporting trials or manning reception. The role has grown over the years, which has been really interesting.

As I started out as a cardiographer I still get asked to do the occasional ECG, and I always get called to sort the machine out when it plays up! (An ECG is an electrocardiograph machine which monitors the heart.)

Tell us more about your career, and when you first joined our Trust.

I started out as a dental nurse. A friend at school had a dental operation and I was fascinated so, out of nosiness, I applied to the Royal London Hospital for a dental course.

After I qualified I ended up in theatres. We operated on a lot of babies with cleft palates. It was wonderful as you saw the parents were transformed afterwards, not just the babies.

Then when I got engaged I wanted to work locally. A friend was a cardiographer and told me when a job came up. I’ve been here ever since.

My first day was at Oldchurch Hospital on 21 January 1977. I was working in the Cardiac department as a cardiographer and ended up working with the resus team, which was hectic. I really enjoyed working in A&E and I loved having contact with patients.

I first got into research after I had Vicky in 1984. I wanted to reduce my hours and a part-time role came up in cardiac research, which was just starting at our Trust. I enjoyed it as I got to do a bit of everything and had a great relationship with our patients; some were in studies for over a decade so we’d hear about their whole family history. Some would even say coming in for their appointments felt like they were going to see friends rather than visiting a hospital.

We took part in studies in every aspect of heart disease and I’ve been involved in the initial research for most of the cardiac drugs we use now. Gradually my role evolved from cardiac to all aspects of research.

It was a shock to the system when we moved to Queen’s Hospital – we’d had windows everywhere at Oldchurch so it felt like we were in a bunker.  We put posters of windows on the walls to make us feel better!

Have there been many changes over your career?

A model of the first ECG machine I used is now in the Science Museum! That makes me feel old.

Technology has evolved so much, and research has changed a lot over the years too.

What’s kept you at our Trust for so long?

The patients and the teams I’ve worked with. I try to keep in touch with everyone. I’ve always enjoyed my job – I don’t take life too seriously and I encourage others to do the same. I always have a laugh at work, it does you good.

What’s the best thing about working in research?

Some patients can give up as they don’t think any medication will help them, so to get them onto a trial and to see it make a difference – they become a different person. As they feel better they become much more positive.

Research allows patients to access tomorrow’s treatments today. We need more support for research in our Trust, as it can be of huge benefit to our patients.

Do you have any particularly memorable patients from your time here?

I have had many memorable patients but I couldn’t possibly repeat some of the things they’ve told me!  I’ve said many times that I would like to write a book of my experiences – if I do I promise to change all the names!

What made you decide to retire now, and what are your plans?

I actually decided after a bout of food poisoning in October! Forty-two years is enough and it made me think about having time to do the things I want to do. My husband and I love to travel so I want to do more of that.

We’ve been all over Europe, the USA, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the Maldives – I love to see the culture and history of a new place.

We’ve already got a few holidays planned. We’re going to Croatia later this year, my daughter’s getting married in Turkey in May and we’ve got another wedding in France in June. We’re also planning to go to Canada next year, go to the Ryder Cup in Wisconsin, and visit friends in Michigan.

What else do you like to get up to in your spare time?

We’re renowned for going to the Ship pub in Gidea Park and I’ve encouraged several colleagues to join us for quiz nights. I love to eat out and socialise, and we’re West Ham season ticket holders. I never sit still for long.

I’m really looking forward to retiring, but I’ll keep in touch with my colleagues to make sure they’re keeping the office tidy! We’ve already got a quiz night in the diary for February.

And our favourite question of In Conversation With… do you have any pets?

We had a dog, Milly, a Bichon Frise. She was ancient when she died a few years ago. We’d like to get another but it’s not fair when we plan to travel a lot, so it’ll have to wait until we stop travelling.