TALES of when nurses trained and lived at Warrnambool Base Hospital, worked their way up a military-style pecking order and ingeniously avoided night curfews will be recalled in Warrnambool this weekend.
Twenty-four women who were teenagers when they began their nurse training in 1964 are returning from throughout Australia and overseas for the 50-year reunion.
One of those attending, Carolyn Warneminde, of Mortlake, said the nurses formed close friendships during their three years of working and living together.
Ms Warneminde said the girls helped each other through the challenges and traumas of the job, laying the basis for friendships that have not diminished with time.
The post-shift chats would now be called “debriefings” and were crucial to their ability to handle the demands of the job, she said.
Most of the girls started their training at the tender age of 17 and their time at the nurses’ quarters was the first time they had lived away from home.
“A lot came from big families and it was the first time they had a room of their own,” Ms Warneminde said.
Marion Trigg, of Warrnambool, who has been pivotal to the reunion, said the three years of training at Warrnambool was a lot of fun, as well as hard work.
The trainees crammed in a social life between their shift work and studies but had to be back at the nurses’ home by 10pm on weekdays and midnight on Saturdays or be locked out.
Being young, they naturally found ways to cope with the curfew, such as finding allies in the nearby nursing sisters’ home who would take them in if they failed to get back in time.
They also showed their ingenuity by smuggling in the occasional boyfriend after curfew.
Young men would climb the fence adjoining the tennis court to access the first floor of the nurses home. They would then come in through a window, occasionally startling an occupant who was not their intended companion.
Despite the highjinks, many of the trainees went on to accomplished nursing careers, with several becoming directors of nursing at hospitals or in charge of nursing units.
Ms Warneminde said nursing had come a long way since the predominantly hands-on training the 1964 intake had received.
“I think the nurses we have now are fantastic,” she said.
“They have incredible knowledge.”
While some might say today’s university-trained nurses do not have the practical experience she and her hospital-trained peers had when they graduated, their modern contemporaries could acquire that practical experience quickly if they were keen to do so, Ms Warneminde said.
“We have experience but it took a lot of time to acquire that knowledge.”