Tales of years gone by in the Hospital

When Doris Henderson (née Findlay) was training to be a nurse at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital in 1968 there was no university course, most of the trainees were 16 years old and they were required to live in quarters adjacent to the Hospital.

Young woman training to be a nurse.

Doris Henderson (née Findlay) in her nurse trainee uniform.

“A lot has changed since then,” Doris exclaims!

In the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the WCH Foundation caught up with Doris to hear her tales of working as a nurse and why she is a passionate supporter of our Foundation.

“I was 16 when I arrived in Australia in 1964 and wanted to start nursing straight away, but my parents urged me to get an office job and start earning money. After experiencing work in an office my desire to be a nurse grew even more and I made an application to the Adelaide Children’s Hospital and commenced my training on 8 October 1968.

“I was the oldest of our training class at 20 and at our 30th reunion one of the girls let me know they had looked on me as being the ‘granny of the group’ and very wise! I arranged our 50th reunion in 2018 and it was a very special event.

“The course was three years and comprised of study blocks and placements on the wards. It was hands-on learning when working alongside senior nurses on the wards.

“My favourite wards were Walker, which was surgical, and Rose – newborn babies. I could have spent all my time on Rose Ward – I just loved it!

“One experience on Walker leaves a great memory in my mind. A three-year-old patient needed to go to the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) for a brain scan – in those days they didn’t have that technology at the Children’s. We managed to get him on the bed, but he wouldn’t lie down and was upset, so I asked if I could have five minutes alone with him. I sang to him and he dozed off to sleep, meaning the scan could be done.

“The next day the nursing director asked to see me immediately. On her desk were two gifts and two cards from the boy’s grandfather and parents to thank me for the way I cared for him. I thought that was lovely.”

Just over a year into her nursing course, Doris was engaged and planned to be married early in 1970. As student nurses had to live in the nurses’ quarters Doris had to give up her course. However, her training to date, having passed her first year examination, meant she had achieved an enrolled nurse qualification. After having her first son, she couldn’t return to nursing as there were no Hospital shifts suitable for mums, so Doris sold Tupperware for eight years and also worked for her husband’s business when needed.

In 1986 the State Government put out a campaign about attracting former enrolled nurses back into Hospitals,” Doris explained.

“They announced an information session to be held at the Modbury Hospital to enable us to register our interest in undertaking a nine-week refresher course. We had to sit an exam and if we were successful, we then had an interview. From 140 people who attended the first session, there were eight nursing roles available and I was fortunate to be offered one of them.

“I contacted Sister Zetta Karay whom I knew from my trainee days and who was still working at the Children’s. I told her I was doing the refresher course and would like to resume working at the Hospital on completion of it and with her assistance I gained a position and was placed on Brookman Ward – the oncology/renal/cardiac ward. I had requested three night shifts a week. It was very rewarding, and I felt very privileged to be there. In those days enrolled nurses were able to assist with drug administration and I was regularly assigned to patients receiving treatment for Leukaemia for my full shift.

“My time as a nurse at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital has ingrained it in my heart as a place I want to support, and having seen evidence of the amazing work of the Foundation,  I am very happy to assist this group of dedicated workers.

A man and woman sitting at a table at an event for the WCH Foundation.

Peter Stobie and Doris Henderson at a Golden Hearts event.

“Through my passion as a musician and singer, I have a very special interest in the Arts in Health program the Foundation funds, including the Animal Assisted Therapy program.

“Having attended a session where I was able to meet the handlers and hear about the benefits of pets being brought on to the wards and also being used to encourage some patients ‘reluctant’ to do prescribed exercises by  going across to the parklands and playing  ‘games’ with the pets – this is one of the best programs I have seen. I want to contribute to programs like this.

“I also recently visited the Beach House at Victor Harbor on a Golden Hearts event – the house is amazing.”

Would you like to find out more about the Golden Hearts Bequest Society or how to leave a gift in your Will to the WCH Foundation?

Click here for more information

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