Day in the life of a … nursing veteran

December 2014 Vol 14 (6)

Thelma Glasgow started training at Rotorua Hospital with her twin sister back in 1964 and 50 years later the theatre clinical nurse educator is still nursing fulltime. Find out about her nursing day now and nursing days in decades past.

Thelma Glasgow 

NAME: Thelma Glasgow

JOB TITLE: Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE 0.4FTE) and Coordinator Sterile Services Unit (SSU - 0.5FTE)

LOCATION: Rotorua Hospital, Lakes DHB


6am WAKE: I wake up by the alarm clock, I am not a morning person so this is always a shock. My white and tabby cat is waiting at my bedroom door wanting to be let in and fed!  I feed the three Shaffer hens waiting at their run gate, I enjoy this little chore as they leave me three golden brown eggs every day. I am a fairly organised person on most days and just need to pack the lunch I prepared the evening before into my chilly pack.


7:00am LEAVE FOR WORK: I like to leave for work by seven before the peak traffic builds up - also so I can stop at Nando’s for a flat white. The staff are very friendly and have my regular coffee ready for me each morning.  My husband, who is retired, often takes me to work on the excuse of partaking in an early morning coffee and planning the rest of his day.


7.30am START WORK: I always start work in the sterilizing unit to perform the warm-up cycle of the autoclaves and organise the daily Bowie Dick checks and heat sealer checks. Then it is all ready for the morning staff who arrive at 8am to continue with the reprocessing and sterilisation of reusable instruments and equipment used from the evening before. I check the theatre lists and discuss any need for turning around equipment for the list with the clinical nurse coordinators (CNC) of each theatre specialty.  Today I check and authorise timesheets for the SSU staff ready for payday on Thursday.


9.30am COFFEE MEETING: Before the rush of the day I have a coffee and some yoghurt with my SSU team and the theatre clinical nurse manager (CNM).  I check that the in-service training flyers for the next three weeks (that I had sent to the theatre support person) had been typed and ready for display. I see that I'm scheduled to attend an unexpected meeting at 1.30pm.

I started my nursing training at the Rotorua Public Hospital in 1964 alongside my twin sister.  I really did not know what I wanted to do when I left school so my Dad thought it might be a good idea to join my sister and go nursing too. He also pointed out that we were paid to learn and had accommodation provided on our workplace doorstep. Training with my sister reduced my homesickness… and allowed me to play tricks on my twin like quickly repinning shift change notices from my hostel bedroom door to hers. 

After graduating in 1968 I was assigned to the operating theatre until asked to transfer to the isolation ward.  This was a ward for all infectious diseases and all ages –  so infants and children as well as male and female adults. In the ward we had all surgical site infections, otitis media, gastroenteritis, childhood infections, meningitis, tuberculosis as well as osteomyelitis.

Some of these diseases are no longer seen due to immunisation as well as advancement in medicine and medication therapy.  Often these patients were hospitalised for many months, even up to a year. 

The men with tuberculosis were housed outside in small rooms referred to as the TB Huts. During the 9pm medications round these men were often absent – they had walked down the hill to the Lake House Hotel for a few beers. I hope they didn’t cough too much.

After one year I was transferred to the 40-bed paediatric ward where I worked as first a staff sister then ward sister. I nursed there for fifteen years until I felt I was in a bit of a rut so asked in 1986 to be transferred to the operating theatre.

From a new theatre staff member learning the ropes I progressed to a leadership role in general surgery and endoscopy. In 2003 I became the clinical nurse educator for the operating theatre while continuing to be responsible for the endoscopy service.  Then in 2011 I was asked to take over management of the sterile services unit as well as continue with the educator’s role.

It is in the operating theatre that teamwork is demonstrated  – no one member of the surgical team can work alone. I enjoyed learning the names of all the instruments, when and how they were used as well as the history of how they were designed and by whom.  These I shared with the new theatre nurses and students I taught including the tale around  Gillies and McIndoe Dissecting Forceps developed by the two Kiwi surgeons famous for their pioneering plastic surgery work on burnt Battle of Britain fighter pilots.

Fifty years may sound like a long time to be working in the one workplace.   However, it just seems like yesterday that I started on this journey.  I am still enjoying my work and sharing nursing experiences and stories with my colleagues.


1pm LUNCH BREAK: I eat the salad I brought from home in the staff lounge. It is a good opportunity to meet up with theatre staff and discuss how their day is progressing.


1.30pm BUSINESS PLAN MEETING: The meeting is to discuss a business plan for the post-anaesthetic care unit (PACU). As a senior nurse I am often involved in meetings on improvement strategies and planning nurse education including in my roles as an assessor for the PDRP (professional development recognition programme) and as a National Hand Hygiene auditor.


3.30pm MEETING ENDS: I usually manage a morning tea break but never take an afternoon tea break as I try and finish work by 1600hrs because I prefer to complete the work for the day on time, if possible.


4pm  HEAD HOME: On the way home I manage a 30-minute plus walk in the Redwood Forest. Once home I feed the waiting hens and collect the eggs before walking around the garden, which is especially highly perfumed and colourful at this time of year. I start to think of what to prepare for dinner.


8PM POST-DINNER: After dinner I organise my lunch for the next day. Then I either read, watch television or play a few games on the computer. I usually also check any emails from my horse trainer to see where the racehorses (that my husband and I have a share in) are next racing and what their work has been like for the week.  If there are any courses that I need to update for my own learning this is when I revise the subject matter.


10pm TO BED: I generally like to be in bed by ten and read until I start getting sleepy, takes about 20 minutes…

*PS My twin sister went on to be ward sister for the men's surgical ward before leaving fulltime nursing to raise a family.  She is currently a phlebotomist.

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