It’s a five-decade family affair at Westmead Hospital for this husband, wife and daughter dream team

Meet the Toth family – husband and wife Joe and Caroline and their daughter Hayley just can’t get enough of each other – they all choose to work at Westmead Hospital.

This is especially true for Joe who, in 2019, retired for four months, but quickly returned to his workplace of 31 years after receiving, what he describes as a “please come back” call from the bosses.

However, Caroline and Hayley suspect he just couldn’t bear to be at home alone without them.

Between the married colleagues, who have been together for 42 years, Joe and Caroline have clocked up 57 years of service at Westmead Hospital.

“Caroline and I carpool to work every day,” said Joe.

Joe and I were the first married couple to work in the same department on the same shifts at Westmead,” giggled Caroline.

“They weren’t really happy about it, and back then, you weren’t allowed to work together as a couple unless you met at work, but we got around it because he was a nurse, and I was clerical.

“However, once the kids were born, we basically worked opposite shifts anyway so that there was always someone at home.”

Joe started working at Westmead Hospital in 1991 as a hospital orderly. After 18 months at TAFE, he became an endorsed enrolled nurse and in 1995, began his career in the emergency department (ED), where he stayed working for 22 years. Both of Joe’s sisters are also nurses.

Following a two-year stint in patient discharge, Joe decided it was time to retire and did so on 4 July 2019, a day he jokingly coined “Joe’s Independence Day”.

However, after four months of ‘retirement’, he returned to Westmead Hospital in a casual capacity, and in June 2020, took up the critical role of Westmead COVID-19 coordinator.

I still remember the first COVID-19 patient to arrive in Australia from Wuhan – we looked after him in ICU and no one really knew what to expect,” said Joe.

“This is definitely a standout career moment for me.”

Following in Joe’s footsteps, Hayley has chosen a career in nursing, and like her father before her, “loves” working in the emergency department at Westmead Hospital.

“I’ve been a registered nurse for four years now and see myself staying in ED long-term,” said Hayley.

“I really like to critically think and problem solve. You don’t know what medical issues you will face during any shift, and I really enjoy working in a position where you’re required to go with the flow and think on your feet.”

“Every day in ED is different – that’s what I loved about it too – the variety,” said Joe.

This August, Caroline Toth will be celebrating 26 years at Westmead Hospital.

Caroline has worked for the ED (just like her husband and daughter), in bookings and admissions and currently works for the operating suites as a clinical performance support officer.

Throughout her time at Westmead Hospital, Caroline and her team have been instrumental in bringing the hospital into the modern world during the many technological advancements that have occurred since the early 1990s.

“The accessibility of technology around the hospital has really changed things for the better,” said Caroline.

“We used to hand write everything and have medication charts – and now everything is online,” explained Joe.

Hayley also has a brother who, much to his father’s disappointment, didn’t follow in the family’s footsteps, choosing a career as a forklift mechanic.

“I tried to get Daniel into nursing, but he wouldn’t,” laughed Joe.

“He’s a doctor of forklifts,” Caroline followed in jest. 

Although their roles at Westmead Hospital differ, the big thing that unites this family at work is their conviction for helping others.

I think it’s the little things that can really benefit people; just saying, “how are you feeling – is there anything I can do for you”, can make someone’s day so much better,” said Hayley.

“At the hospital, your job’s not just your job,” said Caroline.

“Even when you’re going home, people in the corridors get lost – it’s nice to be able to say “yes, I can help you – this is where you need to go.”

Helping people isn’t the only passion this family shares; they love to travel together – having recently come back from a trip to Cairns, go for weekends away and have two Labradors and a Jack Russel who as Caroline said “are our life”. 

The family also unanimously agree that the best thing about work is the people and the life-long friendships that are made.

“Your colleagues really do become like your family – you go out with them, party with them, watch their kids grow up, get married,” said Joe.

“It’s great to make lifelong friends who are your colleagues,” agreed Hayley.

Family is definitely a big part of our lives,” said Caroline.

Joe still has no intention of retiring, so the Toth presence will still be strong at Westmead Hospital for some time to come.  

“I followed him in the door, and I’ll likely follow him out the door – when that time eventually comes,” laughed Caroline.