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Nurses reunite for tribute

Monday, 8th May, 2017

Gail Vivian, Wendy Chynoweth and Wendy Evans discuss the starching requirements for their old nurse’s uniforms. PICTURES: Kara de Groot Gail Vivian, Wendy Chynoweth and Wendy Evans discuss the starching requirements for their old nurse’s uniforms. PICTURES: Kara de Groot

By Kara de Groot

The Broken Hill Base Hospital’s 130th anniversary was also an opportunity for former work colleagues and friends to get together and reminisce. 

Gail Vivian, Wendy Chynoweth and Wendy Evans were all nurses together in the late 60’s, when the building was known as ‘the ship in the desert’.

As well as discussing duties, they shared stories on some of their escapades, and corrected some misconceptions.

Gail Vivian started at the hospital in 1966, graduating in 1971, and said that one item in the new Matron Gladys Vance Museum Annexe had a different name for hospital staff.

“One of the items has a sign on it saying it’s ‘The Reverter’, well it was never called the Reverter, we only ever knew it as Big Ben,” Ms Vivian said.

“It’s a cardiac monitor, and you look at cardiac monitors these days and they’re small and portable, well we worked with that thing, it’s massive,” she said.

“I remember not even being able to reach the top end to clean it.”

She said that it could be hard and lonely work, working six shifts a week for three months at a time, including evening shifts, but it was an excellent education.

“The nurses nowadays, they have got a lot of theoretical knowledge, more than we did, but even they admit they don’t have the practical skills that we did,” Ms Vivian said.

Of course even nurses want to have fun, and apparently nurses got their kicks by sneaking around at night.

She described how nurses who wanted to stay out late without the matron’s approval devised a clever way to enter and exit the building undetected by those in authority.

“As a student nurse you had to live in the Nurses’ Home, and if you wanted to go out you had to be back by 10pm and if you wanted to stay out longer you had to get a sign out pass from the matron to give you approval,” Ms Vivian said.

“But there was an apricot tree next to the walkway that went from the Nurses’ Home to the hospital, with a tin roof,” she said.

“The way to sneak in was to climb that apricot tree, jump on the roof of the walkway and then you had to line up with a junior nurse to let you in.

“You were a bit more senior when you did that, you’d knock on the window and the junior nurse would let you in, and of course you wouldn’t dare not let them in because they were your senior nurses.”

All three ex-nurses agreed it was good to come together and reminisce over their time together, and the mischief they got up to.

Ms Vivian said it was nice to recognise some of the faces on the wall in the new museum annexe.

“Some of the senior nurses I worked with are there, and it’s good to see the uniforms, we were some of the last ones in the hospital to wear the green,” she said.

“We had starched cuffs and starched collars, and we weren’t allowed to wear the uniforms too short, we’d have the matron measuring our uniforms.”

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