New recruits start at Wollongong Hospital

Margaret Johnston is just the woman to offer advice to the 100 nursing graduates embarking on careers in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven this week.

She’s the only nurse in the health district to have chalked up 52 years, after arriving at the nursing quarters of Wollongong Hospital in 1960.

‘‘It’s listening to people, that’s the key - the power of observation is very important,’’ Mrs Johnston said today.

‘‘Back when we trained it was all about observation, there were not a lot of machines like there are now, it was all done visually. It’s so different today but paying attention to people is still what’s important.’’

Mrs Johnston hangs up her uniform for the last time this week, coinciding with NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s  announcement of  57 new nurses for Wollongong Hospital.

Coledale Hospital will also get three new graduates, while four will start at Bulli.

Three graduates have been assigned to Port Kembla, nine to Shellharbour, 15 to Shoalhaven District, one to David Berry Hospital and eight will work in mental health services.

One of the new breed, Shellharbour 23-year-old Peter Henderson, had his first day in emergency yesterday after morning tea with Mrs Skinner.

‘‘I chose emergency because of the adrenalin, fast pace and I wanted to make a difference in the community,’’ Mr Henderson said.

‘‘It’s a little bit intimidating but I like a challenge.’’

Nursing for the new recruits is a far cry from the world Mrs Johnston entered as an 18-year-old.

She left her home in Parkes and moved into the Wollongong Hospital nursing quarters - spending time at Elouera House and Lawson House.

She eventually became charge sister in the children’s ward and held various other senior nursing roles.

The biggest change she has noted over the years is the focus on primary care and early discharge.

‘‘In the last 10 years the focus of nursing has changed so much - people are wanting to know more and they are able to self manage,’’ she said. 

‘‘It’s wonderful. People want to be nursed at home, it’s a change for the better.’’

Nurse Leanne Savio, from the Bulli Community Health Centre, said Mrs Johnston would be sorely missed.

‘‘She showed enormous respect and care for her  patients and their family members,’’ Mrs Savio said.

‘‘Margaret had the ability to be able to mix with everybody and you knew if Margaret was caring for you, you had the best.’’

Mrs Johnston’s retirement dinner will be held at the Lagoon Restaurant on Friday night.

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