For over 40 years, Hilary Shoesmith dedicated her life to nursing. On 31 January, Ms Shoesmith passed away at the age of 58 and it is clear from the comments and memories shared with Nursing Times that her compassionate personality was adored by many, including loved ones, colleagues, students and patients.
“She was a very kind, gentle, giving lady,” Michele Bryden, a colleague of Ms Shoesmith’s, says. “She was selfless through and through, spending her time doing charity work and crafting when she wasn’t working as a practice nurse. She liked to sew, garden, make jam and bake cookies at Christmas time.”
“Patients absolutely loved her,” she tells me. “She knew everything about them.” Ms Shoesmith had been working at Caritas Group Practice for the last 15 years. And it wasn’t only patients who were fond of her, but students as well.
“She was an absolutely brilliant mentor”
Ms Shoesmith was a mentor for many years where she was able to impact countless students’ educations in the most positive of ways. She would teach them medical Latin as part of her mentorship as she felt it was useful information for them to know, as many medical terms stem from the language. She tailored each student’s learning to what would allow them to receive the best experience possible from their placement.
“She was an absolutely brilliant mentor,” Ms Bryden tells me. She would get to know every student and what their interests were, and at the end of their placement Ms Shoesmith would give them a small going-away present.
One student, Ms Bryden recalls, received a fly swatter. “He didn’t like flies,” she says with a laugh. “Hilary made him promise he wouldn’t swat any bees.”
“I am honoured to have the pleasure to say that she was my mentor and could not thank her enough”
Another student had shared with Ms Shoesmith that when she was young, she picked flowers to make perfume. One of the flowers had been poisonous, so at the end of her placement, Ms Shoesmith bought her a book on plants that taught how to differentiate between poisonous and non-poisonous flowers.
“It is unquestionable that Hilary is an exceptional nurse, and I am honoured to have the pleasure to say that she was my mentor and could not thank her enough,” one student wrote in a testimony about Ms Shoesmith, which was submitted as part of her Mentor of the Year entry for the Student Nursing Times Awards.
“Every student who has been under Hilary’s ‘wing’ has a great sense of self”
“Hilary was an amazing, thoughtful and caring mentor and a hard act to follow!” another shared.
“She was a great character and nurse,” a third student wrote. “She gave me a love for practice nursing.”
The testimonies from former students continue — all sharing the positive impact Ms Shoesmith had on their development as nurses.
Her dedication to education did not go unnoticed. She was shortlisted in 2015 for Mentor of the Year at the Student Nursing Times Awards. “Every student who has been under Hilary’s ‘wing’ has a great sense of self, of their value and importantly of their duty,” Caritas Group Practice wrote in its nomination of Ms Shoesmith. “She defines what it is to be a caring, knowledgeable expert nurse.”
When she learned she was nominated for mentor of the year, Ms Shoesmith wrote a statement regarding her time as a nurse and mentor, citing teaching as a chance to make her a better nurse.
“She defines what it is to be a caring, knowledgeable expert nurse”
“This was very rewarding to me,” she wrote. “Knowing that my students have followed my teaching and themselves enjoyed successful careers in nursing is very important to me, and makes me feel that my mentorship of them has been worthwhile.” It’s clear that Ms Shoesmith took pride in her life’s work and enjoyed the impact she’s had on her community.
“She was such a kind individual and would do anything for anybody,” Ms Bryden says. “She was such a caring person.”
Her dedication to nursing and philanthropy has made Ms Shoesmith someone who will always be remembered for her altruistic nature. Those who wish to make a dedication to Ms Shoesmith are asked to donate to the The British Red Cross in lieu of flowers.