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Retired nurses share memories at afternoon tea

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on May 22, 2023

The highs and lows of nursing were shared by a group of retired nurses at a special afternoon tea held at Logan Campbell Retirement Village.
Now all residents in Ryman Healthcare’s Greenlane village, the nurses hailed from the UK, Hong Kong and New Zealand and took turns to share their memories to mark International Nurses Day.
UK-trained Tangi Thomas, who turned up wearing her long cap, told of the different names the trainees received as they gained more experience.


The diminutive Tangi said: “The uniforms were measured 13 inches from the floor and 13 inches for me is quite a good length but for those taller ones 13 inches made you look like Orphan Annie when you walked down the hall!”
The uniforms started as yellow, prompting the name the Buttercups for the nurses wearing them, before blue epaulettes were added in the second year, which was what they then became known as.
When they graduated to blue uniforms they became the Forget-me-knots.
Margaret Walker took the mic to describe her real life experience with a cabbage patch baby, after she once helped a lady who worked in a market garden to give birth.
“The Matron said ‘we can’t deliver the baby in this dirt!’ so she and I picked up this lady, who was screaming blue murder, and we put her in the truck.
“And the matron screamed at me, ‘don’t you let her tea’ and anyway I didn’t let her tear and we had a very happy mother and baby and father and so yes, babies are born in cabbage patches!”

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Tangi Thomas (above and top pic with Village Manager Rebecca McMillan) demonstrates how their caps would fly behind them as they walked the corridors while June Campbell (below) shares her experience as one of the first female radiographers.

IMG_7497 (Large)Lynn Symmons described the fond memories she had of her dental nursing days based at Kelston where she had ended up playing rounders on the school field a few times and had grown quite attached to two little girls who had visited her at the surgery.
Another former nurse, Colleen Christini, described the day she’d ended up making the low salt porridge after being at a ball the night before.
“I put all the ingredients in but I didn’t look at the grade and I put it on high and then suddenly I’m standing there with my shoes and my stockings and all my uniform up to my waist covered in porridge!”
She added: “Nursing was great and that comradeship was just so special. I’ve never found anything else like it.”
Two ladies present had worked as a doctor and a radiographer and described their experiences of working in their field where it was majority men.
Margaret Liley went to Otago Medical School in 1945 and said of the 120 in her intake only nine were women.
She said there were so few options for women back then: “Most of the 90-year-old nurses here had no option but to do nursing when they left school.”
Meanwhile June Campbell did radiography in 1953 and said the good thing for her was they did get equal pay and equal opportunities with the men.
“I worked for 40 years in different hospitals throughout New Zealand and the last two years I was in charge of the special unit at Auckland Hospital.
“I had a family – I was one of the first wives to work and one of the first females in my intake.”

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Colleen Christini (above) and Molly Tseung (below) got a few laughs after sharing their funny and relatable nursing experiences.

IMG_7509 (Large)Molly Tseung had thought she would be a nun initially but when her sister became a missionary nun she instead trained as a nurse in Hong Kong.
She recalled exhausting nightshifts in the nursery where it felt like she worked on a conveyor belt of babies who needed feeding, burping and changing.
“We’d have to feed about 30 of them every three or four hours and it looked like you were in industrial work. We’d fold up a nappy to prop the bottle and let the babies feed themselves!” she said, with a few others nodding and laughing in response.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

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