Celebrating a 45-year career at Hamilton Health Sciences
John Sheppard was a teenager fresh out of high school when his mother suggested he apply for work as a hospital porter.
“I graduated not knowing what I wanted to do,” says 63-year-old Sheppard, who is celebrating his 45th year working at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), first as a porter and then as a registered nurse. John is the fourth-longest serving HHS employee. The longest-serving, registered nurse Barbara Linkert, has been with HHS for 55 years. We’ll share her story next week.
“My mom was a secretary at the hospital and she encouraged me to apply for a porter position,” says Sheppard, who spent three years working full-time as a porter at the McMaster University Medical Centre (MUMC) site, where he saw the critical role nurses played every day in caring for patients.
“I knew I needed a trade and I’m not good with a hammer.”
“I admired the work that nurses did and thought it would be a good fit for me professionally,” says Sheppard, who with his signature sense of humour adds, “I knew I needed a trade and I’m not good with a hammer.”
Sheppard continued working as a porter part-time while earning a nursing diploma from Oakville’s Sheridan College and his degree from Daemen College in New York State.
“When I graduated from nursing school in 1981, only two of the approximately 80 graduates were men,” says Sheppard, who started working at HHS as a registered nurse right after graduating. He has always worked on the surgery/surgical oncology ward – first at MUMC and then at the Henderson Hospital, since renamed the Juravinski Hospital.
All in the family
Back when Sheppard was working as a porter, he met his future wife Calleen. “We met at the McMaster hospital in 1978. She was a respiratory therapy student and our departments were next door to each other.”
Calleen has since retired from her job as a respiratory therapist but both their daughters Rachel and Rebecca are HHS nurses. Rachel works at the McMaster site’s intensive care unit while Rebecca is an emergency department nurse at the Juravinski Hospital.
Sheppard is thinking of retiring at age 65, but says he’ll make up his mind closer to the date. “I’m taking it day by day until then.”
He has seen significant changes to his profession over the years, with the most significant being in technology. “There were no computers when I started. Everything was done on paper.”
Nursing is a highly-rewarding career, and one that Sheppard promotes. “I would definitely recommend nursing at HHS. Both my daughters are nurses here.”
“I’m part of a fantastic team.”
Anyone interested in entering the profession needs to be prepared to work hard, he says. “It’s not an environment for people who like to coast. It’s a challenging job and it’s important to arrive smiling and with a good attitude.”
Sheppard’s supervisor Delia Palmer praised him for his positive attitude and work ethic.
“John takes pride in his nursing profession,” says Palmer. “He’s humble, hardworking, always has a great story to share and genuinely cares for his patients. He’s also highly skilled, extremely knowledgeable and a compassionate team player who consistently displays and promotes the highest ethical standards. He demonstrates the true meaning of patient/family partner advocate, and is a positive role model for staff.”
Helping patients is highly rewarding, and so is being part of a great team, says Sheppard.
“It’s like any job you do for a long time. It comes down to the people you work with. I’m part of a fantastic team.”
Join our team
HHS is holding a virtual Nursing Recruitment Fair on Sept. 21 and 22 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. both days. The fair includes an introduction to HHS, and information on benefits, compensation and training followed by breakout sessions with different program areas. Pre-registration is required. General information about HHS nursing opportunities can be found here.