Stories of magical care, come rain or shine

SHIRLEY Sutton started working as a district nurse in Canberra in 1964 and, with a career spanning more than 30 years, she has countless stories to tell about district nursing during past decades. 

“There are some magic stories from people in the early days,” says Shirley, who, together with author Alan Foskett, has written a book revisiting 100 years of district and community health nursing in the ACT called “Caring for the Community Rain, Hail or Shine”.

“The book is not only a magic read for nurses working in the area and for retired nurses, it’s a magic read for patients and people who lived through that time,” she says.

The 450-page book was researched by Shirley’s ACT Community Nursing History Group.

“The hardest job I had was to find all the old nurses… eventually all these people came to our attention and we interviewed them… some of the stories were so funny and we laughed so much that once we forgot to record the interview,” she says.

But Shirley says the stories, which date back to the beginning of nursing here in 1911, are wonderful.

“The differences between those days and today are the equipment that was used, the hours that were worked, the pay and the cost of the visit, for example when I joined it was five shillings a visit.”

Shirley says the book’s stories date back to 1911, despite the fact that district and community nursing services didn’t formally exist until 1950.
She believes that to understand fully the origins and development of district and community nursing, it is important to be aware of how health and hospital services developed before 1950.

It was the National Council of Women that first raised the need for an ACT-based district nursing service outside the hospital environment.
The rapid population growth in Canberra in the ‘60s and ‘70s was cause for a growth in community nursing. The ageing population was also a factor and increased awareness of the importance of providing health services to people in their communities and their homes.

“Caring for the Community” also identifies the significance of home-based palliative care, a program that was introduced in 1985.

“Caring for the Community Rain Hail or Shine” will be launched at the Southern Cross Club on Sunday, March 24, at 2pm. No bookings required. The book costs $40 and can be pre-ordered by calling 6291 8410.

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