When Catherine Stone began studying nursing at Mater Hospital Sydney at 17 years of age, she was breaking the mould in her family of teachers.
She lived in the nurse’s quarters at Mater, undertaking six weeks of classroom training before starting on the wards and graduating in 1970.
“We had good fun! My mother said to me before I left home, you can go to Mater to study because I know the nuns will keep you in line,”
said Cath, as she is commonly known.
After finding her feet as a graduate, Cath moved to St Margaret’s Hospital Sydney to study maternity nursing, before moving on again to Melbourne.
“I had hoped I would find a job in maternity in Melbourne, but I was asked to go into coronary care instead,” she said.
“At the time, coronary care was just getting started. There were few interventions and medicines we could provide for patients, unlike we have today. Patients were in hospital a long time in those days, and
they were often very unwell.”
With a young family, Cath and her husband eventually relocated to Brisbane.
“I called around to all of the hospitals in Brisbane looking for work. Finally, I called Miss Banff, Matron of The Wesley Hospital, and told her I was trained in coronary care nursing. She said, you can come in for an interview this afternoon!”
“I started work at the Wesley very soon after that and on my first shift in Ward 5A surgical ward, I ran into an old friend named Marg. We had trained together in Sydney.”
Together, Cath and Marg moved around to different wards, including to the Intensive Care Unit, and remain very good friends to this day.
“Soon after, the Wesley opened its first dedicated coronary care unit with six beds. It was at that time we started providing interventional care,” Cath said.
“I loved cardiac nursing, the people I worked with and the patients we cared for. We cared for patients from right across the state who would be brought in to us by the Royal Flying Doctors Service.”
Cath went on to become Clinical Nurse Manager of coronary care, sharing the role with long-term colleague Rosie White.
“Becoming a manager was a learning curve! We had a good team of nurses on the ward and I enjoyed the business exposure I had in that role. It was fabulous.”
“The cardiologists we worked with were so supportive and I got great joy from watching our team grow. There were so many wonderful opportunities for professional development for anyone who wanted to be there.”
In 2001, Cath decided it was time to retire. She took all of her long service and annual leave with plans to embark on the next chapter of her life at the end.
“I was coming to the end of my leave and the Director of Nursing at the time, Ron Patterson, called me and said do you want to come back? He offered me some casual shifts as hospital nurse manager and in the bookings department,” she said.
“I continued to do that casually for a while before the Director of Nursing called again and said, I’ve got a job offer you can’t refuse!”
And she couldn’t! For the next 10 years, Cath managed all feedback received by the hospital in the Quality and Safety Unit.
“At the end of my career, I have no regrets. This role has been so fulfilling. We investigate, we interact with patients and their families and we achieve good outcomes.”
“Someone has taken the time to share their experience with us and that provides an opportunity for us to always be improving.”
Reflecting on almost four decades of being part of the Wesley community, it was the people who Cath remembers most fondly.
“The very best thing has been the people I’ve met and the care we’ve provided,” she said.
“For 16 years while raising my family, I worked night duty. The hospital was a family friendly place and we all looked after each other. We had really good times!
“I am grateful to the Wesley. It has provided me with so many opportunities, things I could never have expected as a young nurse starting out. I certainly couldn’t have dreamt of a pandemic!”