“I’m looking after second and third generations of families”: Blacktown nurse reflects on five decades of caring

Blacktown Midwife Terry Freeman (Nursing and Midwifery Unit Manager Special Care Nursery) long term staff member

A registered nurse from Blacktown Hospital, another from Westmead Hospital, and an Aboriginal Chronic Care nurse have accumulated more than 140 years of caring for patients and their families in western Sydney.

To commemorate International Nurses Day, 12 May, these nurses share their passion, motivation, and highlights from their extensive, productive, and care-filled careers.

Rosie celebrates a half century of nursing

“I’ve seen newborn babies open their eyes for the first time and have sadly seen people close their eyes for the last time,” said Westmead Hospital cardiothoracic surgical registered nurse, Rosalie Brown, otherwise known as Rosie.

Rosie was drawn to nursing at the age of 10 when her aunt was being treated for leukaemia, at the same time Calvary Hospital in Hobart was advertising for nurses in the local paper.

She wrote a letter to the hospital expressing her interest in nursing and the hospital’s matron replied asking her to wait a few more years.

Rosie joined Westmead Hospital Children’s Ward in 1990, spent some time in the surgical ward, and joined the cardiothoracic surgical team in 2004 – where she remains today.

“I’ve never lost sight of the reason why I became a nurse that is to care for the patients. I am very passionate about what I do.

“My motto is to work, talk and treat all patients the same as if I was the patient,” Rosie said.

The veteran registered nurse acknowledges her dedication and longevity to nursing is also thanks to her colleagues and takes every opportunity to decorate her ward with team photos celebrating Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter.

“I’m the nurse I am today because of the people and wonderful support around me. I’m excited about the future of nursing given the calibre of new graduates and students coming to our ward. They are our future!”

Shirley’s beginnings in western NSW to western Sydney

Mount Druitt Community Health Centre Aboriginal Chronic Care nurse Shirley Brown.

Mount Druitt Community Health Centre Aboriginal Chronic Care nurse Shirley Brown started her nursing career in 1959 at Narromine Hospital west of Dubbo as an assistant in nursing.

“I grew up in Narromine and when I was 16 years-old nursing was the only profession in my country town. My parents wouldn’t allow me to move to Sydney, so I stayed locally and studied nursing” Shirley said.

“I left nursing for a couple of years but returned in 1971 and have been a nurse ever since.”

After receiving her Bachelor of Nursing degree, Shirley moved from Tamworth to Blacktown Hospital to complete her midwifery training and then onto Wilcannia to work as an Aboriginal Community Nurse.

In 1980 she started worked as a community nurse at Mount Druitt Community Health Centre and it was here that she found her “true desire” for community nursing.

“I’ve been nursing for 53 years and the most rewarding part of my job is walking away from a client’s home knowing that I’ve made a difference in their life.

The self-confessed work-alcoholic has no plans for retirement and always said when her children were old enough she would return to hospital-based nursing.

“That time hasn’t come around for me and my youngest is now 43. I love what I do – I honestly do,” Shirley said.

Terry’s generations of care

Blacktown Hospital’s Newborn Care nurse unit manager Terry Freeman.

Blacktown Hospital’s Newborn Care nurse unit manager Therese “Terry” Freeman first trained as a student nurse at Parramatta Hospital in 1977.

In 1981 Terry moved to Westmead Hospital’s neurosurgery ward and by 1985 was working at Blacktown Hospital’s Special Care Nursery.

 “I’ve always wanted to care and look after people and felt this way since I was 10 years old,” Terry said.

By 2010 Terry became the nurse unit manager of the nursery – where she remains to this day.

“I’ve helped thousands of babies and families. I’m now looking after second and third generations of families,” she said.

“I looked at a grandmother one day and asked her why she looked so familiar. Her response was ‘It was because you looked after my daughter when she was a neonate at Blacktown Hospital’.

“I was able to locate a photo of this mum walking out of the hospital in August 1987. I showed it to her and she was overwhelmed.

“My passion has always been education, support and sharing knowledge so people can give the best care they can give to their patients.”

Celebrating International Nurses Day

WSLHD Nursing & Midwifery and Clinical Governance director Carol Farmer said our nurses and midwives make a huge impact on the experience of our patients, carers and families.

“Congratulations for the high quality care our nurses deliver each day, their leadership and vision,” Carol said.

“The past 12 months has demonstrated the adaptability of our nurses and we will continue to develop innovations in how we care and meet the changing needs of our communities.”

This year’s theme for International Nurses Day (12 May) is A Voice to Lead – A vision for future healthcare.