Home | Specialty Focus | The 12th of May: a day to place aged care nurses in the spotlight
Some of the nurses who graduated in 1964. Left to right: Mavis Denison, Grace Williams, Rosemary Crimmings, Freda Mason, Dep Matron Sister Betty Green, Beth Smede, Robyn Judd, Denise Taylor and Jenny Porter. Picture: Supplied.

The 12th of May: a day to place aged care nurses in the spotlight

On International Nurses Day Uniting is celebrating two of its aged care nurses who have different experiences but share the same passion. 

Beth Willis, a nurse at the Waverley War Memorial Hospital for over 50 years, started her training after moving from Grafton. 

From February 1960, Beth lived on-site throughout her nursing training for four years.

“Being a trainee nurse in the 1960s was like being a part of a large family. We all lived at the hospital; we were friends and looked out for one another,” Beth says. 

She reminisces about attending lectures between shifts and having regimented meal times. 

“A trainee nurse started working in the pan room for six months, cleaning steel pans and urinals.

“They needed to be shining and the sister on each floor would inspect them before you could finish off your task. 

“We dusted skirtings and doors; if you missed a bit, you knew about it.”

After graduating, Beth briefly worked at the Crown Street Women’s Hospital but moved back to Waverly with her husband and children. 

She remembers wearing a light grey stripe uniform with a white apron over the top as a junior nurse. 

In her fourth year, Beth was allowed to ‘upgrade’ her attire to her white nurse uniform – a dress, stockings, hat, shoes and red cardigan. 

“One of the most memorable times in my career was working with a patient who had been unable to see for six years due to cataracts,” Beth shared.

“After her surgery, I stood at the end of her bed and watched while the doctor removed the bandages.

“The lady looked up at me and said: 'Oh, nurse, you have a red cardigan on!'

“I burst into tears at that moment, it was life-changing and I knew I was in the career I was meant to be in.”

Changeon Lee goes by the nickname Eon and has had a passion for nursing in aged care for 15 years. 

Like Beth, he started his career at the Waverley Hospital as an Assistant in Nursing but has continued his education to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Geriatric Flying Squad. 

“I started off working in the military when I was in South Korea and worked very closely with the medics, which helped me become more familiar with different nursing duties,” Eon says. 

“When I came to Australia, it was instinct; I knew what I wanted to do, so I commenced my nursing degree.”

Eon says he knew nursing was his vocation because you gain so much from helping and caring for people, particularly the elderly. 

“Knowing that I have helped someone so sick, requiring so much support to get back to independent living, really keeps me going.

“Being a nurse changes your perspective on things. 

“Yes, it’s a challenging profession, but with every success comes a challenge and that is what helped me grow and succeed in my career.”

Beth and Eon both emphasise the rewarding nature of their profession.

They agree traits such as being a great listener, courageous and compassionate are vital to becoming a good nurse in aged care.

"Nursing is for life," Beth says. "It is a lifetime calling and doesn't go away when you retire.

"Once a nurse, always a nurse."

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