Hospital-Training to University Degree – Progress at a Price

Hospital-Training to University Degree – Progress at a Price

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

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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). 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)

There are 50 comments for this article
  1. John McG Brown at 11:50 am

    Thanks for the article about the transition from Hospital to University training…..or is it education/learning? The concept of ‘belonging’ still prevails from my Alma Mater being the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
    My daughter is a nurse also from the University system but I am not sure she identifies with her institution of learning.

    • Bernhard Racz at 10:53 pm

      Dear John,

      Thanks for the comment. I work with many who similarly don’t identify with their training grounds, and that I think is a large loss. You get great nurses whichever system exists (hospital/ or university) as there are always that group who are meant to be in this profession, and hopefully will enter, but many of the ‘new’ ones do lack that attachment.

  2. Sarah at 5:35 pm

    As an EN who completed hospital based training and then went on to Uni to partially complete my RN degree, I couldn’t agree more on the preference to get nursing students out of the classroom and onto the wards! The experience of on the job learning is so important and in my opinion, makes for better nurses. There was absolutely a commraderie between nursing students and I suspect it would have been MUCH better back in the days of living in nursing quarters – something I was unfortunately too young to get the chance to do.

    Is there a way forward by looking back and taking a lesson from what worked so well for so long?

    • Bernhard Racz at 10:56 pm

      Dear Sarah,
      Apologies for the late reply, but the original message was caught as ‘spam’.
      Would be nice if there was a health minister who actually had an idea about both systems, and who actually worked in the field. At present in NSW we have one who doesn’t even know the most cost-effective system to overcome short staffing (ie Agency), so can’t expect too much there. My wife and numerous friends, all have told me of their glorious life in the ‘nurses quarters’ !

  3. Susanne at 10:07 pm

    Great little article Bernhardt and I agree with so much of it! I trained at Royal North Shore Hospital in the early 1970s and the camerarderie of living in the nurses’ home and the support of your intake group was so important! Also the loyalty to your training hospital – we took such pride in our uniform and we even fought to keep the sisters’ veils. To this day other nurses ask me why training went out of hospitals – certainly I didn’t know anyone who thought it was a good idea.

    I must sound “old school” but I can’t imagine nursing without the feeling of pride in your training hospital and uniform and badge and the sense of pride in giving the best nursing care you could that was instilled in us from the beginning. Some of the bullying by the Sisters I admit was dreadful and needed to be stopped, but I think nurses now do miss out on a lot of the fun – we had a cemetery right behind the hospital and we used to pick flowers from it to put in vases on the wards – the cemetery was affectionately known as “Matron’s garden”. I can’t imagine training at a university and going in to a strange hospital I didn’t belong to for pracs – it must be very difficult for the students now.

    • Janet Tancred at 6:13 pm


      I too trained at RNS, starting in July ’70 – still working in Aged Care in Brisbane. I probably was one of the people who agreed that nursing should go to a university qualification so that we were seen on the same level educationally as physios, social workers etc. who did the “walk around” ward rounds with the Charge Sisters when we were the ones who knew all about the patients.

      I do agree with many of the comments that a system having uni study integrated with a hospital linkage would be the best fit for experience and “belonging”.


  4. Bernhard Racz at 11:02 am

    thanks Sus(z)anne ,
    When my soon-to-be future wife Debra Pearson started at Lidcombe (a Bankstown Hospital trained RN) I invited her to lunch at the staff dining room in one of the original nurses quarters buildings. I told her she could sit at the front table, and put a rose in a vase on it. I picked the rose out front in the garden. I didn’t tell her that the home Sister (Sister Sketchley) claimed the table as her own. Debbie was wondering who the crazy woman glaring at her was, for sitting there.
    Bankstown Hospital was one of the most blatant of the ‘regimental’ hospitals, as ‘heaven help’ and nurse or other staff that dared to sit ‘not in their proper station’!
    Second year students only sat with 2nd year students (in dining room), and third years with third years. “Common” RNs that were NOT charge nurses did NOT sit at a table with senior nurses, and any nurse sitting with a doctor had to have obviously non-existent morals. The best example was when I was having a cuppa in the ICU tea-room with our wardsman Paul, and the ‘Matron’ arrived. She looked pre-apoplexy, and indicated for me to come out of the tea-room.
    “Mr. Racz!…. Who is that person in the tea room with you?!!!”….
    …” My apologies Ms L.B… I thought you knew him… Let me introduce our wardsman Paul X..!!”
    But then came : “I KNOW his name!! What is he doing here in the tea-room?”
    … “having a cup of tea, (“you are having tea aren’t you Paul?”) Ms L.B.”
    …. “Mr Racz ( that was me!), you are now a member of the higher echelon of this hospital, and we do NOT associate with the common denominations… Please remember that!”
    (Paul turned a bit purple and stood up (I assumed he was planning to strangle someone) so I told him he was needed in the coronary care ward.
    I liked Ms L.B., and one Christmas she gave me a pewter mug on which she had a cockroach engraved for me

    • Susanne at 5:04 pm

      Thanks for the laugh Bernhardt! Yes hierarchy was indicated in the nurses’ dining room via seating arrangements. Mere student nurses sat at one long oblong table with rows of chairs down each side. Student midwives sat at a round table with a vase of flowers in the middle. And what most annoyed me was that physiotherapists, for some reason, not only sat at a round table with a bunch of flowers in the middle but also had a bowl of fruit! Rats!

      I do remember our Senior Tutor Sister though telling us that the most important person in the hospital was the cleaner. I never forgot that. Some of the cleaners we had were so kind and often very helpful to new nurses too!

      I can’t see how nurses are not worse off under the university or TAFE system – now to be an enrolled nurse you have to pay $15,000 and no pay for the 18 months of study – so bad luck if you want to become an EN and you are mature aged, unless you have parents or a partner to support you, you would have no way of surviving. Mature age entrants were encouraged during the hospital training as it was felt their life experience was a valuable asset, and they normally did very well.

      We had room and board, meals provided, supper provided, uniforms laundered for us, rooms cleaned by the maids, lots of girls from the country trained at RNS and their parents could rest assured they had a secure roof over their heads, excellent and kind Home Sisters to take care of them, a wage and security. The discipline was military and the work was hard but I think we had it better than nursing students now have it – and I think knowing the hospital was where you not only worked but also lived made it feel different somehow.

      Of course many escaped to rented flats by their final year – more freedom than in the nurses home. Still I felt very sad when I saw the old nurses home bulldozed, remembering the days when it was full of white-aproned nurses with blue capes dashing about.

      And yes I did have a friend who left after being told off by the Charge Sister because she overheard a patient calling her by her first name instead of “Nurse Smith” or whatever. Later at another hospital we used the title Sister and the first name – so it would be Sister Pam or Sister Helen etc etc. I thought that was much nicer and friendlier than using the surname all the time.

      There’s a wonderful old Utube video on the Internet of nurses at the London Hospital in the 1960s and I must say I don’t think much had changed when I was nursing!

      • Bernhard Racz at 12:11 am

        Great memories!
        I remember well the date of 7th July 1977. I was married on that day, and my wife would not be allowed to have the day off! Evil Vixen! How dare a nurse marry! Nurses were meant to die spinsters!
        Debbie hid in lockers whenever the nursing hierarchy came near, or was hidden by her colleagues. This was because she had her hair in curlers (another horrid and forbidden act!). Every day of her nursing career she had had her hair tied back tight, and the starched headgear in place, but this was new. Anyway, she survived, and there were a few specific senior nurses looking for her (but also a few who were senior and protected her).

        Then came the honeymoon….. She would have to work ten days straight in order to be allowed the four days off, then another 4 days off but have to work 10 nights straight. Yes, Nurses were truly respected!

  5. Barbara Healey at 9:08 pm

    I enjoyed reading all the above comments. Certainly brought back a lot of memories, as I trained in the 60’s, and did midwifery at Bankstown in the 70’s.(had male midwives then also)
    I have been a nurse educator for many years and I originally believed in the transition of training from hospital based to university based.The idea at that time was that we would have more professionalism and acceptance with a Degree.Registered nurses were going to be able to look after the “whole ” patient , from basic nursing care (not too many university nurses really know what that means today) to the very technichal treatments.They were going to do away completely with nurses aids and assistants in nursing. (I have recently seen an advertisement for training assistants ??) We all know how important EEN’s are now!!! Where would we be without them, especially in aged care facilities.I would really like to see training go back to paid hospital work, but in conjunction with education done by the Universities. The other idea in the original transition to University was so that patients would not be” guinea pigs ” to be practised on by untrained nurses. But this is really still the practise when they come out for placement in hospitals. Of course there is a lot more supervision now. In my training days we performed tasks under the supervision of another “senior” nurse sometimes we didn’t have a clue why we were doing it. I am a facilitator for universities and in my experience I have found that there are a lot of students who do not really want to be a bedside nurse. They are often more interested in being in charge of the ward,using computers, ,research etc.,or wanting credits to do medicine or one of the other allied health fields, than making a patient comfortable or attending to the patients ability to eat. Many times I have seen meal trays delivered by catering staff and the untouched tray collected later because the patient has been unable to open food containers or remove glad wrap coverings, or cut up their food. I feel sorry for the graduates today as I think it is very difficult for them. Too much is expected of them when they graduate. In the “old days” by the time we graduated we were very efficient in delivering “care” but perhaps we lacked the knowledge of the present day graduates. I definitely believe there must be a better system with perhaps a 50-50 training/education , paid hospital training/employment combined with university education. It could still be achieved in 3 years. There is far too much “down time”.

    • Bernhard Racz at 11:12 pm

      Dear Barbara,
      Were you there when Anthony Hutapea did his midwifery? (I did my ICU training with him at St Vincents). I had a new-grad RN from the initial Uni-training group at my unit, on her first day. I Introduced myself, then took her on a short intro to the ward, and the surrounding areas, ending at the pan room. I explained where and how pans were cleaned, sterilised (real autoclave sterilisers like in theatres) etc, when she said “I don’t do pans or pan rooms. I’m an RN!”. I explained to her that RNs do EVERYthing in the unit, as there may be no-one else around. She walked out, and I had a call from nursing administration that she refused to return, and requested a transfer out. Months later we heard of her from the wards, where no-one seemed to like her. She was known as one who barked out orders. She wasn’t typical of the majority. I do meet new-grads that are excellent from the start, willing to learn, and to adapt to the ‘reality’ that is nursing, but constrained by the ever-increasing litigation threats. That scares many of them. Have seen a large number who leave after a year or more, into non-clinical nursing areas.

    • Catie at 7:25 pm

      So very much agree with your comments . I trained at prince Henry/ prince of Wales in 1978. Hospital based training or apprentiships so much needed today.

    • Robyn at 9:18 pm

      I started my midwifery in 1974 and I was the only one in the class..unfortunately my husband had to move to Brisbane so I didn’t get to finish

  6. Michelle at 10:00 am

    Really enjoying reading the comments. I trained at the Sydney Adventist Hospital in Wahroonga, class of 1990, at the time still very much hospital-based even though we studied full time. My class was one of the last before the Degree Qualification started. The student nurses were a large percentage of the staff, I don’t think they would have been able to operate without them – always five classes running through at varying stages of seniority. I remember teaching a third year UTS student how to take a blood pressure. She was 6 weeks away from graduation, and I was senior first year. I felt sorry for her.
    I remember Tony Hutapea very well! He was Clinical Educator on Ward 3, an absolute fountain of knowledge and a perpetual student! Very inspiring man.

    • Bernhard Racz at 3:19 pm

      I worked in ICU and a few other wards there, including a surgical ward. Long corridor with a full-size window at the end, giving an uninterrupted view of Sydney CBD and skyline. The first thing I thought was :”If a nuclear warhead is dropped on Sydney, I will get the most phenomenal view!!! – just before I dive into a side-room!”
      My first night shift there as an agency nurse was a ward full of about 30 patients, and lots of post-op hips and knees so over 18 on 4/24 to 6/24 IV antibiotics, plus several on autologous blood transfusions. Just me and a third-year nurse of the SAN. She was brilliant! – had all the antibiotics regularly lined up for me in kidney dishes! Made a great night shift!
      Was Vicky McCullough there or am I at the wrong hospital?

  7. Wendy Newton at 10:32 am

    I to am hospital trained 1985 at the Bundaberg Base. I feel sorry for the kids coming out of Universities, I don’t think they get any of the time management skills we learned, way back when, the modern patient focused model sounds better than the task model we worked under, having said that our old charge nurses expected us to know the family history of the 36 patients in the ward and as such they were all ours as opposed to mine and yours. How things have changed. We also had the fully segregated dining room, my mother was a “Charge Nurse” and I was not permitted to have a meal break with her as I was a lowly student.
    I would love to see todays students have more real world learning, many miss out on specialty areas such as ICU and Theatres which results in them not looking to those specialities as a career option. I don’t know that any of us has the fix for the issues, but at least talking about it brings the plight of the modern student nurse and new graduate back into the consciousness or us “old war horses” and hopefully reminds us to extend them some kindness as they didn’t design the current education system anymore than we did. Who wants to go back to the days to the old dragon charge nurse when you spent most of your first week scrubbing pans and crying in a linen cupboard?

    • Bernhard Racz at 3:28 pm

      Hi Wendy, and thanks for reading and commenting. I was 19 when I started in nursing and got used to the ‘dragons’ early. At my first hospital (Lidcombe) I actually was allowed to have meals with my mother (also a nurse there) and the place was rampant for ‘inbreeding’ (almost everyone I knew was either married to, or dating, another of the staff). Many of the ‘couples’ worked together in the same ward, which was a ‘criminal act’ in other hospitals I think!
      One of the ‘dragons’ that regularly came to ‘put us in our place’ especially on nights was English trained. “I know you all try and go to sleep on your break, but I’ll catch you, and then you’re fired” was a favourite phrase. Once at about 4am I went to the roster office (another prehistoric building in the heavy fog and ammonia cloud) and there she was, unconscious, with her head on the desk. I never told her, and let her keep using her happy phrases.
      We also had to know all the family histories of the patients, and even the old ‘Matron’ used to know everyone by name, including other family members and if any of them had problems or issues. That no longer exists in any place I work.

  8. Susanne at 3:47 pm

    In reply to Barbara Healey, TAFE now offers a Certificate 3 in Health Services Assistance – which is training Assistants in Nursing – six months’ part time at TAFE to do what we did as junior nurses during our hospital training days – make beds, feed patients, ensure patients can get lids off food items and eat while the food is still hot, TPRs, BP, bedpans/urinals/cleaning the pan room etc, some do glucose testing etc. It seems to be widespread in Western Australia, has been trialed at several hospitals in Victoria and now some hospitals are offering traineeships in it – as to study it at TAFE now costs around two thousand dollars!

    I think it’s mostly because it’s cheaper to pay an AIN to do this basic bedside nursing than an EN or RN, and also because they are starting to realize that good bedside nursing care is not being attended to properly – not necessarily the nurses’ fault as they are so often short staffed/busy with paperwork these days. Myself if I were a patient I’d be happy there was someone whose job it was to ensure I was comfortable, fed and washed so maybe it’s a good idea.

    • Bernhard Racz at 2:26 pm

      Hi Susanne,

      Always good to have someone to actually guarantee that basic care is getting done. Many RNs have become so overloaded with care that the basics (which are as important as the actual medical care) are getting skipped due to time constraints. There are more bed sores /pressure sores now occurring in hospitals than in the past, but much is also due to the fact more people are alive today that in the 70’s would have died. There is a claim that people are ‘living longer’ but it is probably more accurate to state they are ‘dying longer’ – (many should be allowed to die).
      In the 70’s we had many ‘ward assistants’ who did feeding, shaving, conversation, shopping, placing bets on the TAB (yes!) and showering. This was in addition to assistants in nursing.
      Today hospitals are advertising more and more for “volunteers” (why should private hospitals that are funded by the government get out of paying wages?). Unions should be making these hospitals pay wages.There is a big union rant about the 457 Visa abuses, yet they totally crawl in a box to avoid dealing with this issue.
      Anyway, in the 70’s the nurses also gave regular (every hour for up to 10-15 minutes) limb exercises even to ICU patients (range-of-motion exercises to joints and shoulders). Today, within a week of a patient entering ICU, they usually can no longer raise their arms above the level of their shoulders. Retrograde steps is the result.

      • Susanne at 9:33 pm

        I’ve been out of nursing for a while now Bernard so I wasn’t aware things were so bad with ICU patients. Certainly as a patient myself some time ago in a large private hospital in Sydney I was worried – the nursing staff would ask me if I could remember whether they’d given me my medications or not (considering I was on a fair amount of pain meds and very sick after a major abdominal op. I don’t know how I would remember!) and as I was in the last (private) room at the very end of the corridor I went five hours without seeing a nurse at all – this when my call bell had fallen to the floor, I was hooked up to a drip and couldn’t reach it, and my catheter was blocked! In the end I realized what I had to do was use the telephone on the bedside locker to phone the hospital switchboard, explain my situation and ask them to contact the nurses’ station on my ward to get a nurse to my room to see me. To be quite frank I found this appalling!

        I have a problem with these private rooms off one long corridor – I’ve nursed in them and patients are hidden from sight – I remember walking down the ward once and hearing a weak little voice calling ‘Nurse, Nurse” and went into the room to discover the poor woman was haemorrhaging massively & lucky to still able to speak … when I nursed at RNS in the early ’70’s we still had the old Nightingale wards and while not so great for patient privacy, they meant all the patients were easily in sight of nursing staff at all times. I feel they were safer. A friend of mine who worked in the private section of the Mater Hospital back then agreed with me, feeling that patients in private rooms received less attention.

        I get the impression from a lot of nurses now that “ward work” is looked down on and they want to work in the “exciting” areas such as ICU, Emergency, Theatres. With hospital training of course we had plenty of junior nurses to do the basic and oh-so-important bedside care, plus nurses aides and also lots of wardsmen.

        I agree about the use of volunteers as well, it’s something I’ve noticed also. A friend of mine was in Royal North Shore Hospital some time ago and the poor elderly woman in the bed opposite hers had no hope of opening the lids on her food, my friend found herself constantly ringing the call bell to get a nurse to help her. At least training AINs might help stop this sort of thing happening. I know some private hospitals are using volunteers to feed patients…

        Yes we didn’t see so many very elderly patients back in those days, you dropped off your perch earlier as we didn’t have the means to keep you alive… I completely agree with you, I think we’re just dying longer too. I look at some of the poor old people they wheel across from the aged care home to the park across the road where I now live and I can only think Dear God please don’t let me become like that!!!! It’s rare that I ever see any of them out on the porch on a lovely evening enjoying the birds or the late sun… apparently they have them in bed by 4pm so they can get everything done..

        And to end a very lengthy post, I do think nurses looked better in a recognizable uniform than the scrubs they now wear, the patients are confused about who is who and they look untidy and I still find nurses wearing their scrubs in public horrifying, wearing your uniform outside hospital grounds would have meant being dismissed in my day. Maybe I’m just too old school! I don’t expect them to go back to the starch and veils but couldn’t they wear something that was comfortable but still looked like they took some pride in themselves & made them easily recognizable as nurses? My old Matron must be turning in her grave…. I often think it’s just as well the poor woman died some years ago, she wouldn’t have coped!

        • Barbara Healey at 4:30 pm

          I really enjoyed reading the above. I think Bernard and Suzanne must be close to my vintage.
          I agree with the comment about single rooms and long corridors, unless a transfusion pump alarm goes off you may not see a nurse for hours. They never come around routinely to see how you are they only seem to appear when there is actually something to do such as medications or dressings etc. that’s because they are too busy on the computer doing paper work or researching. Uniforms are another issue, I hate seeing nurses in scrubs ( that have probably been worn in high access areas and then in the supermarket). I too would not like to wear veils again but perhaps a small cap may hold some of the masses of untidy long hair under control.I am a volunteer in a private hospital and I am about to spit the dummy because I believe we are being used as cheap labour doing things that a junior nurse used to do. When I first became a volunteer I thought I would be doing chores that the nurses just never got to do , like talking to patients, reading letters etc, instead I find myself serving morning teas and lunches to day oncology patients, running errands for the staff, I never get time to sit and listen to patients.
          As far as training AIN’s to do the basic care, I believe this is very helpful, BUT it is not why we went from hospital training to university training. It was supposed to be to get away from Task orientated (1st years…basic care: 2nd years… medication &dressings and 3rd years generally assisting and relieving the ward sister with the day to day running of the ward).We knew all the patients not just “my 4-8 patients” So I believe this is a retrograde step. When we had hospital training we got to work in ICU, Theatres, CSSD,Accident & Emergency etc at some time during the 3 years. .But with uni training you can often get to graduation without even ever doing an NG tube, catheterisation, IM injections and numerous other tasks. That’s why they need a grad year under supervision. At the end of our 3 years we knew exactly what area we wanted to work in, because we had had the experience..

          • Bernhard Racz at 5:17 pm

            Hi Barbara,
            I was out of nursing for many years with an L5-S1 protrusion, but the main issue wasn’t the injury, but the GIO blocking any attempts to reemploy me in case of ‘aggravation of injury’ . I spent the years doing other things, but always read up on the latest, and maintained journal memberships to Nursing 2000 etc; the RANF Journal; union memberships; ‘Current Therapeutics’; ‘Patient Management’ (for twelve years!). Then I snuck in via nursing homes for a few years, and private hospitals via agencies (as couldn’t reapply at a public hospital as most D.O.N.s knew me (had been colleagues or students of mine). They all used to say “we’d love to help, but the insurance company etc etc…”
            Anyway, my first shift back into general hospitals was in cardiothoracic ICU! – where within 3 hours I was asked if I were the educator!. All I could think was “What has happened to nursing?”
            Yes, I was different to most of my colleagues (used to run ICUs for years, and also would be up till 4am reading and writing up lectures etc), but I know many nurses of our era who work the same way, through agencies supplying hospitals I work at.
            Even when infusion pumps go off, don’t ever expect to see a nurse attend! I have worked in EDs and even high dependency wards, where other patients’ alarms or infusion pumps have been going off for quite a while, unanswered, with nurses sitting and chatting, sometimes just outside the doors! Have lost count of the number of times I walk up and say “your alarms are going off!”
            I think scrubs should be banned except in theatres. Slacks and culottes are ok for some nurses, but deadly in others! Generic uniforms are a farce. I see patients asking cleaners medicals questions, and some of them actually start giving advice! (some probably even give better advice!)
            I have written many complaints to the NSWNMA regarding use of volunteers as slaves, and as free labour. The union rants about 457 visas ‘stealing work from Australians’, yet shut up totally about the increasing use of volunteers to do the same.

            Your last paragraph is right. I know new grads who have done a straight 6 months ICU, hen 6 months orthopaedics, or renal. And then they go off to do research or other. Some of these new grads are brilliant anyway, but many are still lost as they didn’t cope too well in the areas they worked. Bullying is often a major issue (it is rampant, but often depends on the strength of character of the new grad). Never excusable, but without supervision, it continues.
            Things are definitely different. Many colleagues are constantly looking for ways ‘to escape this rat race’ (but I always enjoy being at work, as don’t believe I should destroy my day)

  9. Susanne at 6:29 pm

    I wonder why when training went to colleges and university, student nurses were given so little practical experience. I remember bringing this up with an instructor at an “information evening” for prospective nursing students and she wouldn’t answer, just gave me a filthy look! Prospective students that I spoke to didn’t even know that nurses had to work shifts!

    I was researching on the Internet about outbreaks of C.diff etc at various hospitals in the UK and the comments from nursing staff seem to be that it’s due to understaffing and overworked and unmotivated cleaning staff. That reminded me of a conversation I had with the cleaning staff while working at a large private hospital – they are contracted out and with the fast rotation of patients in and out of the hospital they told me their cleaning duties were increasing with their staff numbers being cut.

    When nurses and all other staff were employed by the hospital, eg. at my old training hospital, the cleaning staff (mostly Italian and Greek migrants and absolutely wonderful) felt great loyalty to the hospital, where they were mostly employed for years and years, they were all union members, and were overwhelmingly kind and took great pride in their work. One of my funniest memories is of the dear little Italian lady who was polishing the glass doors into the Emergency Department – a short, very plump middle-aged lady she polished those doors until they gleamed. Then the Head of Orthopaedics – a much-loathed arrogant and nasty man – walked up to the doors and instead of using the door handle he pushed the just-polished-to-perfection glass door with his hand. The cleaner was so outraged she yelled abuse at him in a voice so loud and indignant it stopped everyone in the entire area – we all stood just soaking in the scene – nobody dared cross this man, but this little Italian cleaner was all over him – and he just stood there looking so gobsmacked that anyone dared to yell at him like this he was like a stunned rabbit. Wonderful stuff!

    The best wards at RNS were the old TB wards Bernard – where you could wheel patients out onto the balcony to get fresh air and look out over the lovely gardens – we still had a team of gardeners back then and there was even a glasshouse to raise orchids for Matron’s office! Alas over time all the gardeners disappeared and the lovely gardens went to rack and ruin.

    And yes please at least a cap – I have had a nurse with long hair doing a dressing on my abdominal wound with her long hair falling into my wound – it was disgusting and I told her so! At least it should be mandatory for long hair to be tied back. Personally I loved the veils and we fought to keep them. Now I’m showing how “old school” I am I suppose. What really stunned me as well was the nurse I saw at Ryde Hospital in Sydney walking around in stilettos, no kidding – this has to be an OH&S issue surely – how is she going to run in an emergency? In bare feet? How ridiculous has the lack of a uniform policy become? Dangling earrings are another one – surely also a safety issue as they can be grabbed and pulled?

    Gosh I sound like an old grouch but I’m really just saddened at seeing how much standards have fallen in some areas of a profession I was so proud of…

    So is all this a mutli-faceted problem of inadequate practical training, understaffing, rapid rotation of patients or are there other issues going on here? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

    • Sharon Lee at 10:27 pm

      What about these “old school nurses” trying to work with the system instead of reminiscing about how great it was in the old days. Talk about eating your young. A lot of senior nurses like to bully and intimidate student nurses.
      I would hazard a guess that many senior nurses were university trained considering it has been around since the 1980s.

      I am not a student but an ex-nurse who was university trained, so I feel I have some knowledge of the profession.
      If you continue to treat student nurses apallingly, we will all reap what you sew. They are not responsible for how nursing training is now university based. Perhaps more lobbying of the government and the Universities needs to be done to bring about more “realistic” training of students.

  10. Susanne at 6:40 pm

    Oh and in reply to Barbara – there are many lonely patients in hospital who would love a volunteer to spend time chatting with them and maybe getting them an extra blanket or plumping up a pillow etc – they really should be using you for that and not running errands for the staff Barbara. Nurses don’t check up on patients much anymore, just to make sure they are warm enough and comfortable and to check if they need anything. Patients often don’t dare ring the call bell over something small like needing a fallen pillow picked up off the floor, and many are stuck in single rooms alone all day with no visitors. I also have a dim view of the number of volunteers I see at private hospitals doing work which should be paid work!

    • Bernhard Racz at 1:20 pm

      To Susanne and Barbara,

      I work more in ICU than in ED, but usually sneak into the hospital at start of my night shifts via the ED ambulance entry doors, and walk through acute ED areas to see who is working. I scan the beds as I walk past, and nearly always end up detouring via the corridors, then return with 4,5, or 6 (if any can bee found!) pillows, as well as a few chairs, then go back to the beds where patients had no pillows (and ask the family members if they would like to put a pillow over, or under, the head of their ‘relative’, and offer chairs. Also ask if they know there are toilets just around the corner, or that they can make a cuppa around the other corner, for free. Many weren’t made aware. I ask many if they need/want a blanket, and let them know where to find them (and tell them that the likelihood of finding a blanket after midnight will be grim!) – Since they brought in linen contractors, the linen service has become worse than a bad case of Clostridium Difficile!



  11. Susanne at 5:28 pm

    Ah now you are giving yourself away as a hospital-trained nurse Bernard – I swear this behaviour comes from the training we received. When I worked in those dreaded long corridors with the tiny rooms off each side at the private hospital some nurses were amused that when I commenced my shift I’d do a rapid zig-zag up and down the hall ducking into every room to check who was there, were they comfy, could they reach the call-bell (it’s amazing how often pillows & call-bells fall on the floor) & saying hi to relatives and did they know there was a shop open for snacks and a cafeteria on the 4th floor etc etc. I think it was just drummed into us from the beginning of our training to do this sort of thing… one of the worst horrors at RNS was bed linen touching the floor (germs, germs, GERMS, Nurse!) – if that happened it had to be immediately tossed out – even now at home I can’t stand it if any bedlinen happens to touch the carpet!!!

    I also got laughed at because I still positioned treatment trolleys with wheels at perfect right-angles to the wall and pillowslips with the opening away from the door. I can’t help it, if it isn’t like that I get beside myself with anxiety. I guess that military-style training just never leaves you.

    I know a nurse who trained at The Alfred in Melbourne where they had a regular “tidy round” and everything on top of the patients’ lockers had to be shoved inside the locker – the important thing was that the ward looked neat when Matron or her deputy came around – to this day at home she takes everything off benches and tabletops and shoves them inside cupboards – she says it doesn’t matter that inside the cupboards is a mess as long as the rooms LOOK tidy. She thinks she has internalized an authority figure who is still looking over her shoulder even now!

    I follow a blog by an English nurse trained in the early 1970s and she still has these sorts of behaviours at home too – I think that nurse training then was so strict that it never really leaves us!

    • barbara Healey at 9:41 pm

      Hi all
      Gee it is so great chatting with” like people” and it is mainly because of the type of training we have done. I see it all as a facilitator (which is all I do these days) (and love it!) .
      But it is all very well to discuss these things, BUT what can we do about it ??.
      I have been on numerous advisory boards over the years, but it is useless debating with academics. There is no way they will ever let go of university training but somehow we have got to make them believe that the students need more practice hours. The answer I got when advocating this was that they would have to increase the training time to 4 years. Which is ridiculous. They only really have about 26 weeks in an academic year anyway.

      • Bernhard Racz at 10:22 pm

        Hi Barbara,
        Would be good to give them more practical, but better to give them full-time wages during course as well so they would be free of the HECS debt. Would solve both issues. I should do a stint as a facilitator. Used to love teaching when worked as a NUM, and forever teach while doing agency.

      • Susanne at 9:01 pm

        I’m replying rather late Barbara but I’ve spoken to nurses doing both the Enrolled Nursing course and the Bachelor of Nursing and they have told me they find placements so terrifying they would love to go back to hospital training, and/or get much more time on the wards. Is there any way the students themselves could put pressure on their course providers to offer more time on the wards, without increasing the length of the course? Plus I agree with Bernard that it should be paid time on duty.

        When I went to university the students were still pretty powerful when they banded together.

        The Sydney Adventist Hospital I think still pays its students to work as AINs on the wards in their semester breaks – but then the course at Avondale costs them a small fortune. Still they used to turn out great nurses this way as they got so much prac experience – don’t know if they are still doing it, I hope so.

  12. nurseforever at 11:57 am

    Great read,I too am hospital trained,I regard my training as the best,I was a young nurse training in Psych in one of our schedule 5 hospitals.I am now in Aged Care and it can be very challenging at times with the mix of carers and their behaviours that they bring to the workplace.
    The 12 week course that is required for a cert 3,is laughable.While I recognise the great staff that do work in Aged Care there are the few that cause friction ,tell everyone how fabulous they are whilst not really doing anything at all,and cause havoc for the R/n’s on duty.Thank my Psych training for times like this.
    The trainees in those days that couldn’t make the grade were weeded out very quickly.In Aged Care we are forever told that there is a process.I dont understand this process especially when many complaints have been put forward as to why a person is not appropriate for this kind of work.It’s a management decision !!!!!
    I love getting together with my like minded colleagues as just talking through issues gains support and we always get back to the good old days.

    • Susanne at 8:17 am

      I was just recently talking to someone who had left general nurse training in her first year and done aged care nursing ever since. She described some terrible problems in aged care, with understaffing, poor training, bad attitudes from some of the aged care staff, and lack of funding for starters! I’d be interested to know what needs to be changed in the training and your experience of working in the field as a registered nurse. All I could think of talking to this lady was how much I want to stay out of a nursing home! I must admit I think the pay rates for aged care workers and the heavy work sound unappealing. Are they ways we could improve conditions for aged care nurses and make the work more appealing? I’m really interested to hear some views on this!

  13. Barbara Healey at 8:20 am

    Hi Suzanne
    I have not been on this blog for ages as you can see. But recently had some time to spare and scrolled through again.
    I was thinking it would be really great if like minded nurses could form some sort of a group to put pressure on the Uni’s to do something about the practical side of their education. I understand why they have to have so much academia to qualify as a professional but it could still be done with say 6 months in Uni and 6 months paid hospital training over the 3 years, but I don’t know where to start. Would politicians be the way to go??
    Thoughts anyone

    • Susanne at 8:26 pm

      Hi Barbara,

      I haven’t been on this site for a while either! I wonder why the student nurses themselves don’t complain about the amount of practical training in their courses? I’d love to hear from any student nurses (ENs or RNs) and how they feel about the amount of theory vs practical experience in their courses!

    • Yvonne Munro at 3:21 pm

      Hi Barbara
      I recently spoke to a student nurse who commenced the Degree in February and is doing her first placement now (September) a Rehab ward for 2 weeks then she has a couple of more assignments then she is finished for the year.
      February to November (10 months ) Two lots of holidays in that period. My question is how much academic tuition are they actually receiving. The poor girl stated they hadn’t even given them basic skills to prepare them for the ward. The University training system requires upgrading and should be investigated by an independent parliamentary body. After all the students deserve value for money and we the future patients deserve well educated nurses.
      Our nurses and the training they received in Australia was recognised as one of the best in the world. Pre 1980s I very much doubt we could claim that accolade now.
      Im not saying that all nurses are lacking however there are some that are not Nurses and should never have been allowed to graduate.
      A recent example is a friends mother mentioned she hadn’t received her morning medication (heart & other pills), the nurse told her ….later later and walked off. When the nurse was reminded again one hour later, the nurse replied don’t worry you can have your pills tonight it wont matter if you’ve missed this mornings pill. Elderly woman too frightened to speak up to anyone except her daughter who visited that night, New nurse came along to give her the medication and didn’t have any water beside the bed so tried to get the woman to take the medication with “syrup from the desert” lying on the meal tray which had been there for over 1 1/2 hours and hadn’t been cleared away. My god what are we teaching these nurses…. Care ?? Compassion?? Infection Control?? Duty of Care??
      The more I hear from people and experience myself we have nothing to loose by going back to the paid hospital training system it can’t be any worse than the University training.

  14. Liz at 7:57 pm

    Hi All
    I just loved reading the messages on this site. I agree it would be of benefit to return to hospital/university training. The system of training nurses would benefit from a review
    The evidence I have observed is the University system is not delivering the standard expected for the consumer (Student) and the client (patient). Evidence based practice should also apply to the training of nurses. The University system has been in place for 30 years and would benefit from an overhaul.
    Does anyone have ideas??

    • Susanne at 8:30 pm

      Hi Liz,

      I agree completely with your comment! I think in Canada they do something like 2 or 3 days at university and then 2 or 3 gaining experience at the hospital each week – I just can’t remember at the moment whether it’s 2 or 3 days at Uni or hospital! – but it sounds like a better system to me. I’d love to hear from some student nurses as to their feelings about the way they are being trained – although they have never known the hospital “apprenticeship” system of training to compare it with unfortunately.

    • Robyn at 9:36 pm

      Hi Liz ..I really think paid hospital trained nursing is the best ..some nurses do their courses at uni then find they don’t like it so they have wasted 3 years…I was one of 97 nurses that started in the 60s and only 27 graduated so of course they were the ones who would carry on ..and no time wasted

  15. Bernhard Racz at 2:45 pm

    DEfinitely believe the system is best where the nurse gets paid as part of the connection process, but that biggest benefit is also that of belonging to an establishment, ie, developing a loyalty to the site. Many nurses trained today really have no real pride in their training ground. Eg., nurses used to brag about being “trained at RPAH”(Royal Prince Alfred), or at “SVH” (St Vincents Hospital), SVH nurses used to bag the RNSH staff and training (Royal North Shore Hospital) [ these are Sydney Hospitals for you from odd lands!].
    The sense of belonging also created ties with other nurses from the same training grounds even if they had never met.

  16. Bron at 9:27 am

    I’m so glad I found this discussion. I was one of the last Alfred Hospital Melbourne hospital trained nurses. Married to an Alfred Hospital trained nurse and still catch up most years with lots of my 1988 nursing student friends. I have travelled all over the world and I am amazed at our often I bump in to other Alfred nurses.
    The comraderie is never lost.
    It was also a certainty for an employer that if you survived hospital based training particularly at large teaching hospitals such as the Alfred you would be highly regarded and sought after for a comprehensive range of skills and ability to work under pressure.
    Imagine how frustrated and sad I feel now that I was forced to allow my registration to lapse in a time I had three young children and a husband who travelled a lot. At the time I did not have access to cpd while working casually and no provision was made until many years later. Now I am able to do cpd online at a time that suits me and that is cost efficient, but with over 20 years experience as a nurse I am deemed incompetent to regain my registration with APRHA and I’m looking at an$8000 bill to do a re entry program. I can’t even work as a PCA without spending $3000 for an online course plus 120 hours of unpaid work.
    I full heartedly agree with all contributors to this forum that there needs to be an overhaul to the University program and that after all these years there is still a grossly inadequate amount of practical hours allocated to this course. It is not fair on the graduating nurses, the patients, nor the existing staff. As a result we see statistics released by the nurses board(not sure if they still do this) where it showed the average age of practising nurses was 35-60 years of age. Where are all the new graduates? And why is no one asking the question and being accountable for the obviously high drop out rate of young nurses.
    I personally saw a severe lack of support and many a young grad crying at the end of their tether and well out of their comfort zone.
    I too as an agency nurse spent many hours educating and supporting nurses who felt out of their depth with the highly practical nature of real nursing.
    I also am appalled if I walk in to a patients room with an unmade bed, food trays, dirty linen etc. and I admit it flows on to my home life as well. (All children should know how to do hospital corners on their bed😄)
    I also miss the wonderful team Nursing days, a proper handover, medications checked properly to a bedside( there should never be an opportunity for a sharp to make its way into a patients bed linen), and the wonderful times where we had time to banter with our patients and develop real trusting rapport with them and their families.
    It’s quite distressing to know that a new graduate can register for free and work but I have to account for every shift of my nursing career and still have no assurance that I can work again without being put through the wringer. I’m sure there are many others who are in my position and have just given up. I’d love to hear from anyone who is going through this too.

    • Bernhard Racz at 8:18 pm

      Hi Bron,

      Fully agree that nurses with decades of experience should not simply be able to be ‘deleted’ from existence due to AHPRA methods. Many maintained their skills even if not doing ‘controlled CPD’.
      I was out for many years due to an injury and due to insurers blocking any attempt to return due to my risk of ‘aggravating injury” (the norm in the 80’s, when injured nurses were ‘witches and devils’). My first shift back was into a cardiothoracic ICU and in three hours I thought “what has happened to nursing??” – students were asking if I was the educator, and I’d been out of hospitals for 12 years. I kept up subscriptions to nursing journals in three countries, and read them over that time.
      My main focus even now when at work seems to always have a high input into maintaining staff morale!

  17. Wayne Wheeler at 9:24 pm

    Hi all….Very interesting discussion here. I also am originally trained within the hospital based system at RGH “CONCORD”. I also have a university nursing degree post hospital training. I still remain connected to my hospital training and still very proud to have trained in the hospital system. My thinking and critical analysis and assessment and evaluation within my practice stems from everything i learnt and experienced within my hospital training, not at university. Interestingly there are very limited times that i link my university nursing education to my practice which indicates that i learnt much more within the hospital system that i integrate into my clinical practice….and university studies were mainly about how to be an academic writer! The hospital based system made me a “Nurse”….the university system made me a writer and researcher! To assist our patients….we need to be a ” Nurse”…thats what patients need and expect! Hospital based training wins in my opinion. Additionally, I believe that the University Nursing System has NEVER been reviewed by a peak professional body as to its effectiveness and appropriateness in producing a Registered Nurse that is not only educated, but prepared for the role…It needs to be! Its long overdue! Bring it on I say 🙄

  18. Phil Browne at 8:55 pm

    I am not only proudly hospital trained, but VERY proudly trained at Lidcombe Hospital.

    I can remember vividly when, mid-way through my training at Sutherland Hospital, I was hating it so much because of the Sutherland mega-bitches and I went for an interview at Lidcombe in 1981 or 1982. The Lidcombe nurse educator and other senior nurse who interviewed me were not wearing veils (as Sutherland did), or even uniforms, and they halted the interview to feed kittens in the corner!

    I transferred to Lidcombe where I completed my training and proudly have a Lidcombe badge somewhere (the green badge). I knew Lidcombe was for me and going there was one of the best decisions I ever made.

    I loved that at Lidcombe nobody ever was called Sister – right down from the Matron Ron (yes this was the days when the title Matron was still used), through all the supervisors to all staff – everyone was called by their first name.

    I just read all your articles Bernhard and they brought back a flood of memories. Thanks for writing them and best wishes. BTW devastated to learn the hospital was closed and the new block was torn down. Even now, the facilities in that building would have been equal to, or superior to, many other current hospitals – what a terrible destructive move and awful waste.

    • Bernhard Racz at 3:54 pm

      “Mega-bitches”?? haven’t heard that term for a long time!
      Had the occasional one at Lidcombe (according to other nurses) but I had also dealt with these “M-Bs” and often liked them. They would be classified today as ‘bullies’ I suppose, but they usually had the betterment of the nurse as an aim…. just pushed to the extreme to get the message through I think.
      I work with one who is categorized to this limit by many who meet her, but in 16 years I have stirred her equally, but defend her to the end as she is:
      a) brilliant in her field
      b) hates pretenders (nurses that don’t admit what they don’t know… a dangerous trait in an ICU)
      c) is herself stressed out due to home medical issues that she has to leave behind to come and work with some of the nurses at work
      d) cute
      e) easy to stir, if needed
      f) the person I want on the shift with me ‘if the shit hits the fan’!

      I have been unable to work for a few months as I sold house; moved 460km north; have a mother who was in/out/in hospital for a few months after falls. Don’t actually need to work anymore now house is sold and debt is gone (as I own another house outright) but after 44 years involved in ICU/ED etc there is no way of ever stopping this side of the grave. Even an MI 2 years ago didn’t slow me down (and I am non-compliant with statins (refuse them outright) so have good chats with the doctors.

      Hope to find spare time soon, but it is busier to be ‘not working’ than to be working!
      ….. and typing with a distal radial fracture and fibreglass cast makes typing painful, although driving every day and lifting with the arm is considered ‘idiocy’ by my wife and the GP as well, but we nurses know better! (when I fractured the wrist, I didn’t tell my wife for a day and a half, as it happened just as I was about to load a 14 x 6 x 4ft high trailer and drive it 460km. If my wife had known i broke the wrist she would have stopped me loading the trailer and drive…. she came outside after hearing the sound of me bouncing off the steel trailer ramp, but I had quickly rolled onto my back, and told her i was ‘lying on my back enjoying the rain fall on my face’.
      She asked why I was sweating profusely – “it’s rain!’
      why was I white as a sheet? – ‘it’s the lighting… can I get a cup of tea?’

      Off she went to make a cuppa, and I got up, nauseated with the shock, to load several boxes (20-30kg each) with both arms. Couldn’t hold arm horizontal because of the break but found I could hang it down and hook fingers under box… only pain! but it worked. Dropped myself onto ground a few times due to the crashed BP and to avoid the vomit or two.
      Out came Debbie, rang my son, concerned I was having another heart attack, so I said -‘just jarred hand, not a heart issue’.
      The son turned up and I told him ‘don’t tell Mum, but i broke my wrist’ (I had by now loaded about 20 boxes and shelves/ pot plants already).
      He helped with rest of load; and next day I drove to new address. Had to get it done as only had trailer for 2 days, and no-one was available to help, plus couldn’t let Debbie tow 2 tons in severe rain. She noted the severe swelling after about 350km of driving so told her then!
      Then offloaded, and finally went to hospital, but had to drive a truck 1,100km (13 hours) next day and return the trailer…..
      …… and that brings me back to Lidcombe, where I broke a finger and worked for days before Dr Wolska commented “why is your finger purple and twisted sideways?” … in those days we worked no matter what was wrong.
      Today if you have a broken nail, you go on ‘light duties’!

  19. Rosemary Hall at 2:04 pm

    Loved all the comments about the ‘old school’. I too am hospital trained and was lucky enough to live in the nurses quarters for two and three quarter years during that time (left afterwards to get married). I have to admit I miss the hospital training days, when nurses were sent to areas as their progress warranted it. ie third year you went to ICU. Nowadays the poor things on university placement get placed in ICU and haven;’t got a clue. Their preceptor leaves them with a senior RN and a list of things they can and can’t do (the can’t do list being longer than the can do list), and then goes off to supervise other placement nurses in their wards. The most horrifying moment for me as a nurse was when a placement nurse tried to connect and IV to an arterial line ‘because it had a free line. The saddest part was when we got a new graduate into ICU who had never given a bed bath to a ‘real’ patient. We all banded together and helped this one girl who is now an exceptional ICU nurse, The sadness of her confession will never ever leave me and I feel so sorry for those new RNs coming out these days who will have to battle to translate ;
    ‘in school’ theory and practice to ‘real world’ nursing.

    • Bernhard Racz at 5:01 pm

      Can’t just blame the new grads with uni training here. I had an RN (year 5 +) – {yes… that means Uni-trained today, but at year 5 that shouldn’t happen.}…. anyway, the nurse (in ED) connected an IV to the cannula the doctor placed in a patient in ED, and was preparing meds to administer, despite the IV bag filling with the arterial blood from a slightly mis-placed ‘non-IV’ cannula!
      Can happen to anyone.
      As much as Uni-trained nursers get bagged, The system of training is MUCH better than the old system, BUT…. the training NEEDS to be part of a university-hospital placement where the training is in university, but the nurses must be working during that training 4 years at a hospital. There must be an affiliation, and the hospital MUST pay the bill (with the nurses having to guarantee working 2-3 years at the hospital afterwards. …. and avoid getting pregnant during that time? Male nurses have a slight advantage here.
      Motherhood interfered with many a career even during hospital-training era nurses.

  20. Barbara Healey at 8:45 pm

    Hi everyone
    I have not been on this site since 2015. So have just finished catching up with all comments.
    I have been pre occupied with trying to write a book about the changes in nursing since I started my training in 1956 when we had no such thing as disposables and nurses were
    ” handmaidens” to the doctors. I thought when I retired I would have heaps of time but I am so involved with volunteering and rotary that I don’t have any time for myself. Just finished 2 weeks volunteering at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. But I had better hurry up as I have now turned 80 and time is running out.

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