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A Nursing Career…….1960’s

As I appreciate and admire the frontline workers of today, I can’t help but reminisce about the training I received at The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, in the 1960’s. How different is the work, experience, and responsibility of both eras? A nursing career offers a lifetime of challenges and experiences which have been invaluable to me over the years. I will never forget the early days of my nursing career.

Quote from my book ‘Innocent Nurses Abroad;’ published by Ocean Reeve Publishing in 2020

‘We were intrigued to learn that our first lesson would be ‘How to make a bed.’ This may sound trivial, as it did to me and many others, but I can assure you that dealing with envelope edges and hospital corners of exact proportions, stiff ironed sheets with the fold in correct alignment with the head of the bed and so on, was far from trivial. It required a mathematical brain to conquer this assignment. We practiced diligently every day for six weeks hoping to pass our test in bed making.

The intensive training continued with practical and theory assignments, which were becoming more and more challenging.

‘I had no idea the body had so many parts,’ I commented to my bed making partner.

‘I didn’t realise that washing a bedpan could be so complicated either,’ my friends replied.

It was an exciting day when we were given the task to administer an injection into and orange. Now this was nursing!

Traditional hours of 9am-6pm was welcome for our initial six-week preliminary training.

‘Don’t get used to regular hours,’ we were warned.

It may appear as though I trivialise this important introductory part of our nursing training, but no, it was difficult and demanding. The practical tests were different to anything we had ever done before, such as administering enemas, giving injections, different bandages for sprains, fractures, wounds, and support and the never ending cleaning and sterilising procedures. The theory examinations were extremely difficult, with anatomy and physiology, pharmaceuticals, disease identification to name a few.

Once the results were published we were allowed time to make the final decision. Do I wish to continue with a nursing career? I decided that I would continue.

My lefty sleeve now proudly displayed a blue outline of a cross embroidered on a white background, which defined my status as a first-year nurse.

Now I was in the ‘big paddock and into the real world of nursing!

A Nursing Career…….1960’s
A Nursing Career…….1960’s

My nursing career enabled me to form friendships which I have treasured for over fifty-five years. We travelled abroad in 1968, sharing amazing and often terrifying experiences, but surviving! Nursing in London through a private agency offered an insight into the world of the upper class who lived in beautiful homes filled with antique furniture and exquisite artworks which would never have been possible in everyday life. I grew as a person, able to deal with situations as they arose, always with the support of my friends.

And then, I found myself married and living on a remote cattle property in the Gulf country of Queensland in 1969. No house, no roads, few fences, a long way from neighbours, living in a shed with a medical box supplied by the Royal Flying Doctor Service Mt Isa, six hundred kilometres away with a two-way radio as my only communication. This was when my nursing training kicked into gear! How grateful I was to have the necessities in that big green box, to deal with most situations with the support of the radio and the Flying Doctor on the other end if necessary. Grit and determination as a by-product of my nursing training, were invaluable to me for the following eighteen years.

(My story is recorded in my book ‘Back of Beyond’ published by Allen&Unwin in 2018.)

I am in awe of the nurses and all frontline workers who have given there all during this challenging and demanding time with Covid. You are an inspiration and Australians give gratitude for your dedication. Thank you.

May you all be safe and happy as we emerge from tough times.

Kind regards,

Jenny Old AUTHOR

‘Innocent Nurses Abroad’

‘Back of Beyond’ Facebook


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