Nurses Day 'hero': Five decades of nursing

April 2015 Vol 15 (2)

Rotorua nurse Bev Gray is retiring after 50 years of nursing including setting up the city's first coronary ICU to public health nursing and says, given the chance, she would choose nursing all over again.

Bev Gray“I have loved my years of nursing. The bond I have had with the other nurses is just wonderful, it’s been fantastic,” says Gray who is currently a Lakes DHB public health nurse.

She trained at Rotorua Hospital, beginning in 1965. She says those early years of nursing were wonderful years – “great days” where there was a lot of fun.

In those days the matron had strict control over the young nurses and standards of dress were high. She remembers having to change from her white uniform and cap in the hospital to a blue one to go back to the nurses’ home for a meal, all in half an hour.

Gray worked in the medical ward and ICU and around 1969 was asked to go to Waikato Hospital to learn about the running of a coronary care unit. She worked at Waikato for three months before returning to set up the coronary care unit at Rotorua Hospital, with the support of three local physicians.

Gray had to learn and teach others about different heart rhythms, running the machines and new medications – it was new for the doctors too. 

“It was a huge project, scary at first, but I got more comfortable with it and the doctors were really supportive.”

She worked in ICU/CCU for many years, with a few years off to have her three children and working part-time when her husband was home with the children. When it was time for a change, she moved to public heath 15 years ago.

“I love it. Working with people and trying to see the whole story [because] there’s always more to the picture.

It’s very challenging work and can be very rewarding.

“It’s a very different working environment from the hospital ward, working alone in the community as a visitor in people’s homes.”

Gray says once people realise she can work alongside families and help, they are more welcoming and she has built some really good relationships with families and schools. She would definitely choose nursing as a career, given her time again, but acknowledges there are so many more career options for women today.

Gray was told she would know when it was the right time to retire and she agrees – she has heaps of other things to do and is looking forward to making a start.


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