Hylda Whitehead


Hylda Whitehead was born in 1941 and joined the NHS as a medical secretary after taking short-hand typing and biology at night school. She worked in neurosurgery and neurology. Hylda talks about her work as a medical secretary, the fight for higher pay, and the British Society of Medical Secretaries, which she helped found. Eventually, secretaries were no longer present in consultations and shorthand use declined, she notes, and dictation connected to the computer was introduced.


Hylda Whitehead pictured in 2018

Listen to Hylda Whitehead describe her first day on the job as a medical secretary, taking shorthand.

Click here to listen to Hylda's interview in full in the Archive.

(You will need to be logged in to access this content)

Audio Transcript:


I went in and Sister Elson said–it was very helpful really. Nobody explained anything to you. So I went in, sat down opposite this surgeon, with his table of instruments. The patients were coming in. And I got me shorthand book, and after each patient, he dictated—or whilst seeing each patient, he’d dictate something. Then I had to type it up in the notes. So taking it down. Then a letter to the GP. And then, apparently, I was supposed to write out these request cards for x-rays and things. But it being my first day, Sister Elson did it.