Considering I started nursing in 1971, similar to the time my wife did, I think we have both had enough time spent in analysing moods and attitudes among our co-workers over those years. No formal research needed here for any ‘evidence-based’ study, but that is really what it amounts to, as our experiences over the decades simply get filed in our mental recesses. We discuss this topic frequently among our other ‘elder’ colleagues, especially in relation to stress levels increasing among more of today’s nurses and allied health care colleagues. Nothing like reopening those mental filing cabinets it seems!
University education was a three-pronged sword. Brilliant in the guarantee of gaining knowledge, and at a higher standard, but at the cost of a bit of the life-skills reality that hospital-based nursing really is. We ‘old hands’ all know we ‘belong’ to a hospital, and usually with an unending pride. A basic need of the human being is to belong (Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy), and understanding each other’s roles defines this relationship. We also love to belong to something successful, and Lidcombe gave us that, through the family-oriented camaraderie that developed there. It’s all about the BRAND.
Initially, in 1971, I noted the large number of nurses who had to ‘live-in’ in the Nurses’ Quarters buildings (guarded by the bull-dog determination of the Home Sister, constantly on the look-out for those evil ‘boyfriends’ and male doctors!). These nurses were predominantly vulnerable, aged from 16 upwards, far, far from home in many cases. They needed friends, security, safety, comfort, respect, and a sense of ‘school pride’. Above all, these would achieve the ultimate ideal, being that of LOYALTY. To the hospital, to colleagues, and thus to those in your care. The sense of ‘belonging’ was everything, and a few male nurses punched the occasional person (at times ‘charge nurse’) who mistreated these girls… and some lost their job as a result!
In relation to the importance of identity, registered nurse friends of mine, specifically Bill Bryant (now in Toowoomba), Vizy Wilczek (R.I.P.); Sandy Saunders, Bob Slattery and others all wore the sky-blue rimmed badge of Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Elisabeth (with an ‘S’, not a ‘Z’ !) Bashkawi was the NUM of intensive care when I started there in 1972 or 73. She wore the Austrian Eagle badge of a Vienna (Austria) trained registered general nurse. That was the best badge! Then there were the numerous army-nurses, many with badges from various major UK hospitals (St. Thomas; Guy’s; Royal London) and some of these nurses were real ‘Dragons’. Despite the issues, each were inspirations, and so were their badges, so when I started my 13 months of intensive care at Sydney’s St. Vincents Hospital (intensivist Dr Bob Wright) and found out that the unit did not have a badge, I made sure that we had designed one before I finished!
When I started working at Lidcombe Hospital as a nurse trainee, I was immediately captivated by the sense of belonging and identity, specifically by the need to gain that ‘badge’ of the hospital. At the time, I was doing the Geriatric Nursing course, of two years. That got me the Blue Badge with red aescepulus (The wooden stick and two serpents represent the original CADUCEUS of medicine from the ancient, pre-Christian Egyptian times as the wand of Aescepulus, the god of healing). Most of our lectures weren’t so much by the nurses, but by doctors, physicians, professors. From 1974 to 1976 came my General Nursing course, at Camperdown Children’s Hospital, Lidcombe, and Blacktown Hospitals, with time also at the Prince Henry Hospital.
We were employed by the hospital, and paid to work there while also attending numerous two week education blocks, and then had assignments throughout the years. Being paid made a huge difference, and this is what I feel is a major problem with today’s university system. All nursing students should be immediately placed as employees at a hospital, then do their University degree as a side-line. The experience gained, with the more rigorous educational system, will give the advantage, and will allow the hospital system to know ‘what they are getting’ from the start. Face it, not everyone who wants to be a nurse will ever make the grade, whether hospital-trained or university educated. The difference is that if hospital-based, they may hopefully be stopped and sent in other directions before it is too late (for them, the hospital, and the public!). It is difficult to develop a sense of Loyalty and Belonging when you are almost crippled from the start with a huge HECS Debt, and more so if you train at a university, then have no guarantee of any employment as a nurse, as that destroys not only the character but the soul, and results in a criminal waste of resources, both physical and economically.
Every successful nurse deserves a guarantee of employment as part of their training.
The Loyalty and belonging didn’t get restricted to one specific hospital, but was allowed to extend spirally to other hospitals, so for me it was St Vincents Hospital, and Bankstown (the original one!), as well as Lidcombe.
So, it’s all about the ‘Alma Mater’ sense of ideals, and for that end, I now add some historical data about the Lidcombe Hospital (aka Old Men’s Home; Rookwood Boys Asylum etc), to explain why I and my group of friends and acquaintances are from. In addition to the sense of belonging to your training Hospital, is the requirement of any hospital to create the same camaraderie for any and all staff that come from elsewhere, including overseas. Lidcombe achieved this by the bucket-load!
History of Lidcombe Hospital
Lidcombe was destroyed in 1997 for the value of its 500 acres, but until then had established a huge reputation for excellence and research, despite still being seen and referred to as ‘the Old Men’s Home’. Between 1885 and 1887 there were four dormitories built, plus a dining hall, kitchen and two-storey superintendent’s residence (designed by James Barnett) for a boys’ reformatory to teach farming and other skills to young offenders. It was never used for this purpose and on the 1340 acres in 1893, only ‘a stone’s throw’ from the exciting Rookwood Cemetery, opened initially as an asylum (so we Lidcombe nurses were in our right element!). About 1896 it became an asylum mainly for men and had at the time about a 580 population. By 1899 they allowed also men in good health, so increasing the ‘Home’ section to over 800 beds.
In 1913, Medical history was made at the State Hospital when Dr Piero Piaschi, honorary assistant surgeon, administered the first anaesthetic in an Australian Hospital using Meltzer’s method of insufflation anaesthesia and in 1914 two wards for care of epileptic cases was opened.
On its grounds were later established: a dairy (later Carnarvon Golf Course); the ICPMR (Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research… think “Bogle and Chandler’ murder); Minda Child Remand Home; Cumberland College of Health Sciences (University of Sydney Campus); the M.S. Society; and the Lidcombe TAFE. Bread had also been baked on the site for decades. The piggery, vegetable gardens and orchard, wheat and Lucerne paddocks in addition to the above supplied most needs for numerous hospitals in Sydney.
The Infectious Diseases Division was opened during the 1936 – 1939 Scarlet Fever and Diptheria epidemics. The Tuberculosis ward opened in 1955 and by 1959 over eight new wards were added. The 1960’s saw the modernisation of 7 wards to provide medical, surgical, spinal injuries, rehabilitation, intensive care wards, and numerous staff specialists were now the norm, then the 250-bed addition of medical, surgical, theatre, intensive care, endocrine, nuclear medicine, renal dialysis, and radiology wards arrived in 1974. The Liberal government had a major involvement in demolishing the buildings when they were losing power in the early 90’s.
In 1977, the intensive care ambulance from Lidcombe Hospital (under control of intensivist Dr Murray Selig) arrived first on the scene at the Granville Good Street Bridge Disaster (beating Parramatta Hospital’s crew to the site).
www.dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/botanica_and_lidcombe_hospital has some great data.
Female patients entered in the 1960’s.
In 1976 it became a major teaching hospital for medical students, but Nurses had already been trained there for years. The site became the Media Centre for the 2000 Olympics.
What many aren’t aware of is that in 1896 the iron, pre-fabricated St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church was moved from Macquarie Street (the left end of the street) and moved to Lidcombe Hospital.
Many a meeting of pre-Australian Federation, were reputedly held inside this historic building. In 1959, this historic building was sold at auction for 130 Pounds and melted for the iron! (‘Iron Churches’ featured greatly in the development of early Australia). By 1929, there were 139 staff employed to care for 988 hospital and nursing home patients and 732 inmates.
Unlike most ‘general hospitals, Lidcombe was not placed under a Board of Directors, but under medical control and in 1906 Became the Lidcombe State Hospital and Home, and largely became a home for derelicts and alcoholics, again, perfect for many of us male nurses!).
(1979 welcome to Lidcombe ICU)