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Nurses remember the good old days

11 October 2018

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Retired nurses, Margaret Mills, left, Phyllis Parry, Esmé Green and Anne Milne, seated.

Alan Apted, Manukau Courier

Oct 11, 2018


They’ve spent decades serving as nurses, and now it’s fond memories of their careers they bond over.

Retired nurses Esmé Green, 91, and Phyllis Parry, 86, Anne Milne, 93, and Margaret Mills, 67, all live at Elmwood Rest Home and Village in Manurewa.

They say their experiences are quite different from nurses from today.

“As pinkies (trainee nurses) we were glorified gofers. We cleaned floors, changed bed pans, stripped soiled sheets, set up trays, gave out meals, worked as kitchen hands,” Mills says.

“It made nurses very caring and compassionate. All lived in so we shared in each other’s joys and sorrows. It was an age without unions.”

Much of the dirty work is carried out by orderlies these days, they said. Despite this, the retirees say they have a healthy respect and admiration for today’s nurses. “The training is totally different. Who are we to question their training. We trained in different times,” Mills says.

Green is Middlemore’s first nursing graduate and has a building named in her honour, while Parry completed her training at Middlemore Hospital. Milne worked as a nursing supervisor at Middlemore and Mills was a midwife and matron with 58 years’ experience. 

Green and Parry also pointed out how when it came to affairs of the heart, trainee nurses of today have it good. “If you were engaged and the matron found out about it, you had to leave. If you got married, you had to leave.

“God help you if you got pregnant,” Green says.

The quartet still have occasion to relive their nursing heydays and swap yarns. They are members of an informal group of eight nurses now living at Elmwood.

“You should hear them when they get together,” Elmwood’s diversional therapist Sarah Ellis. “All you hear is laughter. They have a great time together.”


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