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Recollections from an amazing 50 years of caring for her community

LONG-TIME enrolled nurse Denise Holdway has recently celebrated an amazing 50 years of caring for patients – the vast majority of which has been spent at Mundubbera Multipurpose Health Service.

Denise, 65, still has plenty of energy and isn’t ready to stop work yet, but she has paused to reflect on some of her memories in an amazing half-century of caring for her community.

This is her story, in her own words.

“On January 4, 1971, I began my nursing career in Gayndah, as a shy 15-year-old Assistant in Nursing. When I turned 17, I was able to begin my Enrolled Nurse training, which I completed after moving to Mundubbera in 1974.

“I still have my nurse’s dictionary that Ester Trousdell presented me with at my graduation ceremony. Some years later I did my Endorsed Enrolled Nurse course.

“Almost all the nursing staff were single and lived in the nurses’ quarters. We all went out together as a group to balls, dances, cabarets or to the movies. Of course, we usually needed a new outfit if it was a special occasion.

“Before the doctors did their rounds, patients were all showered or sponged and beds were made with perfect “hospital corners”, and the nurses had to make themselves scarce during the rounds themselves.

“The staff weren’t allowed to call each other by their Christian names in front of the patients. It was always Sister So-and-So and Nurse So-and-So.

“I enjoyed the theatre days with Dr Rowles and Dr Ung – either preparing the patients, scouting in the theatre, supporting patients after surgery or even sterilising the instruments.

“I also loved the maternity section. It was lovely meeting the mums, new bubs and their families. There were several sets of twins born in the Mundubbera Hospital, but never on my shift.

“Dr Rowles even performed an emergency caesarean section one night and all the staff were called in. I didn’t get to witness that either, because I had to care for other patients.

“The registered nurses and enrolled nurses wore paper veils and caps, which were a nuisance when doing “shoulder lifts” (now no longer allowed). But they looked nice.

“There are a lot of things nurses used to do, which are now done by other specialised health professionals – for example, we used to do chest percussions, but now only physiotherapists can do it.

“The day I started nursing in Mundubbera in 1974, I worked with Edna Kusay, Dr Rowles, Colleen Crofts and Lynda Benham. Colleen recently retired, but Lynda is still in Mundubbera today.

“In 1972 while in Gayndah, I met Sandy Callanan (nee Haydon) and we remained special friends until her sudden death in 2005.

“I’ve seen and experienced lots of good, bad and ugly, and some events I will never forget. Maybe some things have even changed who I was into who I am now.

“I always try to be kind, caring and compassionate and put myself in the place of my patients.  I have made many lifelong friends.

“Last but not least, I remember my very first pay was $50. And I still remember what I was able to buy with it!”

Last updated: 21 January 2021