RBWH Nurses reflect on a Lifetime of Service

Thursday 20 February 2020

Patty, Marion, Valerie and Margaret

2020 is a special year for the RBWH which is celebrating the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife and the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.

Patty, Marion, Valerie and Margaret are all retired nurses who currently volunteer at the Museum of Nursing History.

Together they have seen many changes in health practices, medical technologies and even nursing uniforms throughout the eras.

“Nurses wore different styles of headdress to signify their experience levels,” says Patty.

Capes, veils and butterfly caps all featured as part of the nursing uniform. Butterfly caps were reportedly called so because they were tied at the back like butterfly wings.

Although much has changed in the industry, some core aspects of nursing remain.

“We had a strong work ethic and really cared for the patients. Meals were served on time and everything was on a strict schedule,” says Margaret.

Nurses at the RBWH (formerly known as The Royal Brisbane Hospital) wore bright red capes which came to above the elbow.

“In 1977 we even had to wear white stockings and white shoes,” says Marion.

The Museum of Nursing History now stands where the male urology ward once was.

Regularly staffed by volunteer past nurses, the museum is a treasure trove of historical documents, artefacts and memorabilia.

With over 54 years of nursing knowledge, Patty shows people around the museum and educates them on the hospital’s history, “You meet some interesting people and it’s good to stay involved with what’s happening at the RBWH Foundation.”

You can find the museum at Building 19, at the RBWH, Herston. Open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11am-2pm (phone 07 3646 8702 to confirm availability).