Sunday, May 6, 2007

6 Degrees of Seperation

I have a new job - working for a church owned organisation providing support for unemployed people. I sit in a small office with a lady one day a week. (We both work part time and that is the only day we are on at the same time.)

She used to live in Mount Gambier - in fact as I write this her mother is a patient in the "new" Mount Gambier Hospital. BT lived in the south east for much of her life. Her mother is now unwell and will be moving to a nursing home at Bordertown this coming week, and BT is flying down to see her

I look forward to talking with her about her trip, and especially about the hospital.

I thought it was quite amazing that I'd be working with someone here in Queensland with connections to my past life like that.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

First in First Served - from Toby

On each of the 4 floors of the Nurses Home was a large bathroom with showers, toilets, and 2 baths. The baths were large, deep, and extremely difficult to procure. The rule was, first in, first served. As long as you were able to get a spare bath, and start the water running into it, it was yours.

A few minutes early off duty was the key to getting a relaxing bath at the end of a busy day!

I would fill it to almost the top, add bubbles, and sink into the hot, luxurious, gloriously relaxing water, dozing until the water became uncomfortably cool. Sometimes, if no one else was hammering on the door wanting their turn, I would pull the plug for a bit, to allow replacement with more hot water, to extend the bathing. Sometimes a cold water bomb would come over the top, from someone waiting, and this was a clear message that time was up!

When I finally emerged from the bath I would have hands and feet like prunes, but for me, the bath ritual was well worth the effort, and continued for the duration of my time in the Quarters.

More thoughts from Toby - Night duty memories.

We worked rotating rosters, 6 nights on, 2 off, for 6 weeks. The shifts were very long, on duty at 7.45 pm and off at 6 am next morning. If you were in Children's Ward you got off later, because the Charge Sister insisted that night duty nurse helped feed the breakfasts.

Often we had compulsory lectures at 8.30 am to attend and sometimes another to follow at 9.30 am. We had to attend the lectures to ensure that we were allowed to sit for Hospital exams, and you had to pass Hospital exams before you were allowed to sit for State exams.

So it was that often we fell asleep during lectures, and relied on our classmates to nudge and keep us awake, and their notes with which we used to catch up later. We were very unlucky if we had to then get up in the afternoon to attend yet another lecture at 3.30 pm. but this sometimes did happen.

We did not get paid any extra to do night duty, but at the end of 6 weeks we were given a few extra days off, and I used to catch the train home to Mum's in Adelaide. She would meet me at the station with a Balfours Kitchener bun, which I ate on the way home. Nothing will ever match a Balfours pie or bun!

Looking back now, I think we had a very demanding lifestyle whilst doing our training, and a lot of girls dropped out along the way, but we who stayed have lots of memories of those days, and have enjoyed some poignant re-unions, and enduring friendships.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I remember the incident well. A man was admitted to hospital by one of the doctors, and we were all puzzled by the diagnosis written on the man's admission form with instructions for nursing staff. Three letters - GOK - were in the diagnosis section.

It certainly puzzled all the staff concerned and someone eventually phoned the admitting doctor who replied quite simply "God only knows."

It is one event that I have never forgotten. I wonder what the ramifications would be if a doctor sent someone to a public hospital in the year 2007 with such information.

40 years ago

It occurred to me that it was over 40 years ago that some of us finished our nursing training in Mount Gambier. 40 years! Quite amazing, and some are still continuing with their nursing career.

I come across folk who praise the university training of nurses, and in some ways I do as well, but to me there was nothing like getting a basic training the way we did. We really learned the hard way. I remember the amazing responsibility that we as trainee nurses were expected to manage and we know now how much we didn't know, but we did as we were told and somehow managed.

There's no doubt that university training of nurses is the way for the profession to be more highly regarded, but I have always thought that there should be a way to get better grounding in basic nursing care the way we did. I'm just hard to please I guess. But I have worked with university trained nurses and I wasn't always impressed by their knowledge or skills.

Just my thoughts today.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Toby on Night Duty

I had to do a stint of night duty in Childrens Ward, during my second year. We worked alone in childrens ward on nights, and it was hard work. This particular night I had 13 patients, 5 were babies needing bottle feeding, and there were post op tonsillectomies, a little girl with osteo-myelitis, and 2 children with cystic fibrosis amongst my little patients.

I did not have time to deal with the fact that I did not feel very well. In the morning, after I finished my shift, I called to Di's room to wake her for lectures. She remarked on my strange appearance, and when I looked in her mirror, my face was covered in a rash. And when I looked further, the rash was actually widespread. I had Rubella.

So to Sick Parade I went, and was admitted into Isolation so that I did not spread the virus(probably a case of closing the gate after the horse had bolted). Thank goodness for Mrs Watson, who saved me from this fate. I was taken to the Watson home for my convalesence.

Story provided by Toby.

Story from Toby

I had never thought about being a nurse as I was growing up, but was always fascinated by the Royal Adelaide Hospital Nurses as I saw them from the tram during our frequent visits to the city as a very young girl. They wore ice-cream cone hats on their heads, pink and white check uniforms, a white pinafore, and black stockings and shoes. The Nurses Home was across the road from RAH and it was usual to see one or two groups of nurses in our travels.

I trained to be a telephonist when I left school, and the second year I transferred to Adelaide as I turned 17, to experience city life. Towards the end of this year, I realised that being a telephonist was not for me. My cousin was getting ready to join the Mt Gambier Hospital to commence her training, and the sight of her pink and white check uniform, the white apron, the black stockings and shoes reminded me of my earlier days, and my fascination for the nurses I saw coming and going to RAH.

One day on my way home from a shift at the Franklin Street Telephone Exchange, I called in to the Nurses Board, just to make enquiries about Nursing. An hour later, I emerged, having agreed to commence training in the next Intake at Mt. Gambier Hospital. I chose Mt Gambier because I was really a country girl, and after a year in the City, wanted to be a bit closer to my family, and back in the country. The starting date was in January 1963.

And so began the wonderful friendship with Di Watson and her family. I am so very glad that I switched careers. Today, at age 62 I am still nursing part-time, because I really enjoy what I do.