The Wesley Hospital Nurse Manager Christine Henderson tears up when she recalls memories of her workplace of 39 years.
Ms Henderson, who started working at the Wesley as a registered nurse just a year after it was opened, has had many and varied roles during her career. She credits the hospital’s community spirit and the opportunities she was offered as the reasons she stayed with the organisation.
“I love the Wesley, and the people of the Wesley," Christine said. This is a community, and I think that’s what keeps people working here – the staff are very loyal to the hospital. The Wesley has been so good to me – every time I have needed to move and advance my clinical skills, there has always been another opportunity available to me.”
For Christine, the Wesley’s relationship with Uniting Church Australia was an important factor in her decision to apply for a role at the hospital in 1978.
“I’m a Uniting Church member, and the values and beliefs of the church have always been important to me, so that was one of the reasons why I looked for work here after I finished my training. It was important to me to try and continue living those values and beliefs in the work that I did.”
Throughout the years, the Wesley has grown from a hospital with 302 licensed beds and six operating theatres, to 538 beds and 19 operating theatres. Watching her workplace change and grow was tough at times, but was always for the better, she said. During her time at the Wesley there had been six Directors of Nursing, and all had done a tremendous job in leading the nursing division and upholding the values and beliefs of UnitingCare Health.
“The Wesley has definitely changed since I’ve been here. When I first started, there were 9 wards and a coronary care unit. Now – I lose count of how many wards there are!”
“I think the growth has been good for sure. As a major teaching hospital, we have to have that growth to continue to move with advancements in healthcare. We have grown to meet the needs of the community and we have kept up the pace with all the new technologies and different ways of performing surgery and other areas of healthcare. In particular, the introduction of laparoscopic surgery in the 1990s, and more recently the introduction of robotic surgery, has had a significant positive outcome on the nursing care of our patients.”
For Christine, memories of the Wesley in the ‘70s and ‘80s often include the feeling of community and team spirit that the hospital was well-known for.
“Because the hospital was so small, we used to have inter-ward volleyball competitions. It was an informal thing – we’d just put our shorts on during lunch and go play volleyball on the grass. There used to be a fair bit of banter and competition between the wards back then.”
“We’d also have our equivalent of street fairs. Every ward had a different stall and we’d all get together to raise money for the hospital.”
Then there were the uniforms.
“I remember back when I started we used to wear these little white hats – luckily we didn’t need to wear the veils. We all wore colourful uniforms based on our seniority – the charge nurses wore green, the assistant directors of nursing wore purple, and the Matron wore pink or yellow. We have gone through so many uniform changes – some good; others – not so good.”
Christine talked of the many excellent role models she has had over her career, and said she hoped that she has also set a good example for and influenced her colleagues in a positive way over the years. She will retire within the next year but she will always think with fondness of the wonderful people she has worked with at the Wesley.
Above all else, however, Christine thinks of the patients she has met over the past 39 years. While she can’t remember all their names and faces, she remembers their spirit and tenacity in the face of illness and difficult times in their lives.