Nursing has changed a lot over the last 50 years, but one thing that has remained constant has been Toni Starr’s dedication to a career that she loves more than anything else.
The 71-year-old sister from the Special Care Baby Unit at the Great Western Hospital joined the NHS in 1964 and, more than half a century on, is still as active on the wards as ever.
Toni’s commitment to providing patients with 53 years of unbroken service was formally recognised last week when she was revealed as the latest recipient of Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Star of the Month Award.
Her career began in 1964 at Poole General Hospital as a student nurse, before later joining Swindon’s Princess Margaret Hospital in 1970.
Since then, Toni has built an impressive career and is instrumental in delivering the absolute best care to babies and their families in Swindon.
In between her night shifts, she also found time to achieve a diploma in midwifery and a masters in theology.
Speaking about what drivers her to continue, Toni said: “Things are always developing and we know so much more now than we did when I started.
“Babies of even 24 weeks can survive in 2017, which was unheard of years ago.
“I’ve always been fascinated by medicine. I love to research and find out why things work in the way they do.
“As nurses, it’s something we’re encouraged to do nowadays. I want to go on forever.”
Toni was nominated for a Star of the Month, which recognises Trust staff for their exemplary achievements, by former colleague Hazel Keen, who had never forgotten the lengths Toni went for patients and work friends alike.
She said: “She’s everything I thought the NHS would be before I came to work here.
“Toni looks after her team and never asks of you any more than she would herself.
“One night, a nurse was needed to take a baby to Bristol and nobody was able to go so Toni went by herself, knowing she would be late back from her shift.
“I believe the NHS would be a greater place to work if there were more Toni Starrs in it.”
Toni’s shift on Friday 26 May was interrupted by friends and former colleagues who had travelled in secret to the hospital to see her receive the award from Oonagh Fitzgerald, Director of Human Resources.
After presenting, Oonagh hailed Toni as an “inspiration” and said it was a “delight” to be able recognise her achievements in this way.