Eileen Conroy came to Australia in 1983 intending to stay for six months.
Now after an incredible nursing career, including 20 years in intensive care at Westmead Hospital, she’s decided it’s time to see her friends and family back in Ireland again during her well-earned retirement.
“Since I can remember I always wanted to be a nurse and I always wanted to travel, so this was a fantastic combination,” Eileen said.
“I’m looking forward to a rest, more travelling, staying healthy, and time with family and friends. You miss out on a lot of things in 42 years of shift work.
“But I’m going to miss the patients and the staff for sure. It’s all about the people. There’s great people who work here, so many memorable nurses and doctors, and a wonderful camaraderie and teamwork.”
Eileen was among the last generation to be completely hospital-trained in Ireland before coming to Australia – first to Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) and then St Vincent’s hospitals.
Working in the heart transplant team at RPA inspired her to return to Ireland to complete a critical care course, after which she came back to Australia and starting working in Westmead Hospital’s intensive care services (ICS) on January 17, 2000.
“People do die here. That doesn’t mean we’ve failed – an important part of the job is to help people die peacefully, without pain, and to help their families,” Eileen said.
“You can help and you can make it better for people at the end of their lives. We also do see trauma victims who surprise us all and pull through against the odds, and sometimes they come back to visit you, which is a great boost for everyone.”
Eileen said there are many patients who will stick with her, including a 17-year-old boy who died from a serious infection (MRSA), random attack survivor Lauren Huxley, and an older man who survived an infection on his thigh – then came back and dropped his pants to show off the scar!
“One family had their son survive a bad accident, and they owned a rose farm. So every Valentine’s Day for the next 10 years they sent us a bouquet of roses.”
Eileen’s final message for her colleagues was “good luck and God bless” as they held a celebratory lunch on Wednesday, her final day.
ICS acting nursing unit manager Kazuyo Okuyama said Eileen was “one of the best nurses we have ever had and a true titan”.
“She was the go-to person for all of us can count and rely on. It has been such an honour and privilege to work side by side with her, and we all learned the work ethic and dedication of an intensive care nurse from her.”
Fellow intensive care nurse Linda Sibal echoed Kazuyo’s sentiments.
“Eileen has been a huge asset to our team. She’s been a great mentor and a highly-skilled registered nurse, looking after some of the hospital’s sickest patients.”