SUE Morrison is a rarity among contemporary directors of nursing.
She has spent her entire 37-year nursing career at South West Healthcare, starting as a 17-year-old student nurse and rising to the position of director of nursing (DON), holding the latter role for the past 16 years.
“People are much mobile in their jobs these days,” Mrs Morrison, 61, said.
She will retire from the role on September 21 after what she said had been “a fantastic career.”
“It’s been a privilege,” she said.
Mrs Morrison credits her longevity at South West Healthcare to Warrnambool hospital being “a great place to work” and her personal life being firmly anchored to the south-west.
Married to a farmer at Minjah, near Hawkesdale, the couple have three children. “My family are here,” she said.
Mrs Morrison said she continued to take on senior roles at South West Healthcare because she felt she was “able to make a difference”.
She said she had been fortunate in having led a good nursing management team whose composition had been relatively stable: “You cannot do it in isolation.”
She said changes in the role of nurses during her nearly four decades had been “mind-blowing”.
In her early years, nursing duties included dusting and making sure patients, who were then allowed to smoke in beds, had clean ashtrays. She was once chastised by the matron for walking through a doorway before someone who was more senior in occupation to her.
“It was a very strict hierarchy,” she said.
Nursing roles have since evolved to the point where South West Healthcare is introducing more nurse practitioners who can prescribe medications and order pathology work.
A big factor in the empowerment of nurses was the switch from hospital-based to university training for nurses.
“It was the difference in making it a profession,” Mrs Morrison said.
Another dramatic change has been the length of patient stays which has dropped from an average of about 10-12 days to about 2.5 days.
“We can only do that with more community support services such as home-based care. Before, there was nothing after they were discharged.”