A significant period of Canberra’s nursing history is currently being recorded in a new book celebrating 100 years of community and district nursing.
For the first time the history of district and community nursing in the nation’s capital territory is being recorded in a book celebrating more than 100 years of milestones and change.
Researched and written by a committee of long-serving community nurses in conjunction with local historian and author Alan Foskett, the work documents the changing face of community nursing and its enduring contribution to the ACT health system.
Shirley Sutton, the convenor and chair of the nurses’ history committee writing the book, said more than 100 nurses had contributed, sharing personal stories and photographs.
Spanning the period from 1911 to 2011, the 400-page book includes interviews with some of the first nurses employed in the district nursing service, as well as the perspective of community nursing in indigenous areas.
To be launched in March next year, it will coincide with and form an important part of Canberra’s 2013 centenary celebrations. To mark this nursing milestone, the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, has agreed to write the foreword.
Sutton said the book, which is organised in decades, would contain a detailed history showing how district nursing has evolved over time and the advancement of equipment and technology.
“For example, to give an injection in 1964, when I joined the service, you had to boil a glass syringe and a needle in a saucepan on the stove in the patient’s house. Today, everything is already sterilised and disposable.”
It was also not uncommon for early district nurses to carry out up to 30 community visits a day – a patient load unheard of today in a growing community nursing workforce.
The collegiality of community nursing is also a striking feature of the book, Sutton said. “When going into people’s homes, you really came across some sad and emotional things and there were many times when you had to debrief with your colleagues.”
After two aborted attempts in the 1980s, the book regained momentum in 2010. Sutton said the history committee was determined to capture the memories of today’s oldest community nurses before they go.
“We anticipate it will be great reading to all of the community, not just to nurses. People will laugh, cry and feel those magic moments when they recall that they were a part of that history.”
Sutton said community nursing is a distinctive specialty but has been historically underfunded by governments.
“There is insufficient money going into community nursing to allow for more patients to make that decision to remain at home. With Australia facing an ageing population, we hope that will be the key marker to do something and to do it fairly quickly.”
Caring for the Community, Rain Hail or Shine. The History of District and Community Health Nursing in the ACT 1911 to 2011 – 100 years will be launched on March 24. The project has been partly funded through the ACT Heritage Grants program and the ACT Department of Health.Do you have an idea for a story?
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