A rewarding nursing legacy

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Margaret Anderson is retiring after a rewarding 48-year nursing career.

Margaret Anderson is looking forward to not clock-watching; filling in each day her way.

She is retiring from nursing duties at the end of the month after a nursing career spanning 48 years; most at Ashburton Hospital and 20 years as a nurse manager.

Her last shift is March 25.

She has a garden to tend, and friends and family to spend more time with, including four adult children and two grandchildren.

It’s been a fulfilling career, filled with fun and unity in the good times – and the bad.

Losing people you’ve been unable to save does have an effect, she said.

But the hospital has a good workplace support team, and nurses union, and colleagues talk about their experiences.

‘‘You’ve got to talk about it, you can’t hide it,’’ Margaret said.

Margaret, pictured back row far right, started nurse training with others at Ashburton Hospital in 1974.

She started her clinical training with others at Ashburton Hospital on February 12, 1974, under the instruction of Sister Dorothy Seaton.

They did six weeks of preliminary testing and were placed into hospital wards to learn.

There was block study, but it was mostly three years on-the-job training from listening and watching experienced nurses in action, before carrying out duties under guidance.

They wore a white uniform with belt, starched hat, brown pantyhose and brown shoes.

Margaret in 1974.

It was a life revolving around shift work and study.

‘‘I was taught with lots of bed bathing, dressings to be undertaken, passively exercising limbs.’’

‘‘Today’s nurse spends more time on the iPad, desktop or laptop entering data or administering medications from (them)… it’s much easier to read a medication prescription online than handwritten.’’

But we were dedicated and had goals to achieve, she said.

‘‘It was a very fast learning pace,’’ she said.

Nursing challenges in 48-year career

Margaret graduated from her nursing studies at Ashburton Hospital in 1977 and received the top nursing award, The Lions Award.

Muriel Fowke was matron when she started, and since then she has worked alongside
Sister Maureen Forde, directors of nursing Mary Ross, Heather Gray, Jan McClelland, Annette Norton, Jane Harnett, Jane Brosnahan and Brenda Close.

After graduation Margaret remained as a staff nurse in different wards at Ashburton Hospital for 18 months, including working in the operating theatre.

She then went to Nelson Hospital for a change of scenery to work in their acute medical ward. She thoroughly enjoyed it.

Margaret took up nursing at the encouragement of her father, Allan.

She had taken up nursing at the instruction of her father, Allan Dickie, and just like her
namesake, Aunty Margaret.

The younger Margaret would however have been quite happy to be a ‘‘Land Girl’’ back then – her parents, Allan and Annie, owned a sheep and crop farm at Lauriston.

But in hindsight she was pleased of her nursing career.

‘‘Medicine is an amazing subject,’’ she said, of its evolution and advances.

Margaret spent time private nursing in Guernsey, Channel Islands of the United Kingdom
in the late 70s and got to connect with Scottish relatives and learning their culture.

‘‘I had a ball. It was beautiful. I won’t forget Hogmanany (New Year’s festival), whisky, Loch Lomond, haggis or tattie and neeps (mashed swede),’’ she said.

Her overseas travel was cut short when she was called home; her father was unwell, and later died.

In March 1980 she returned to work at Ashburton Hospital and worked in many roles, the
majority in the acute admitting unit, or AAU, before it became the acute assessment unit.

She married in 1982, and had four children, working soon after each birth.

Margaret, pictured fourth from left, during a past funding presentation at Ashburton Hospital.

In 2002 she took on the AAU charge nurse manager role and spent 19 years at the helm. It
was disestablished last year in what was a ‘‘really unsettling’’ time.

She then took up the role of associate clinical nurse manager of acute and inpatient services. But since turning 65, has decided to retire.

‘‘Nursing has changed dramatically over the years with increased documentation and the introduction of more IT and its technology,’’ she said.

It had taken nurses away from patient bedsides.

‘‘As nurses we had to change and learn new technology programmes which at times was stressful.’’

It was not the case for nursing students now.

‘‘Nursing today is taught in institutions like Ara, with students spending periods of time on different placements through Canterbury District Health Board.

‘‘I have watched some of those students come through Ara, (spend) time on the wards
and then return as registered nurses.

Forty years of nursing was celebrated with flowers delivered on the ward.

‘‘These younger generation nurses are more IT savvy and able to manage,’’ she said.

But they were less exposed to patient care, and the need for a beside manner.

There is pressure on nurses to carry out all the care required, complete online documentation and complete handwritten clinical notes, she said.

‘‘On top of this is the required daily, weekly or monthly ward/equipment checks, audits to
complete, study to undertake for new procedures being introduced and this is all pressure on nurses time, which doesn’t always have positive outcomes,’’ she said.

There is still work to be done to get the balance right.