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Goodnight to nights and afternoons’ nurse after 45 years at Waikato Hospital

A career in Women’s Health that’s spanned 45 years at Waikato hospital, Jeanette Pattenden has decided to put down her nursing uniform just a few weeks shy of her 79th birthday.

In April 1973 Jeanette came to work for Waikato DHB as a registered nurse taking up a mixture of afternoon and night shifts twice a week; one in the new born unit and the other in post-natal care, then called ward 55.

“And they’ve kindly allowed me to work these ever since moving from ward 55 to the Elizabeth Rothwell Building ward E2” says Jeanette.

When asked why she’s stayed in Women’s Health all these years she says: “I love the babies, I’ve also enjoyed the complexly of surgical work in delivery too.

“It’s changed a lot – people are getting sicker and there’s a diverse range of people having babies today that is a lot more intensive on the service.”

Originally a farm girl from Marton, in the Rangitikei District, she did her nursing training in Palmerston North from 1956-1959.

Post training, Jeanette went by train and boat, with her bicycle on hand, and headed down to Timaru to start her nursing career saying “hardly anyone had cars in those days and a lot of South Island girls went north and vice versa. I was 21 at the time.

“I then went overseas to London where I worked in private nursing and returned to Hamilton married to a local Waikato man and we also had a child.”

She was away from nursing for 12 years until April 1973, five years after the birth of their third child, when Waikato Hospital was recruiting for mothers to come back to nursing. At this time they’d opened up the old Sunshine ward, a crèche for pre-schoolers that suited Jeanette perfectly.

“When I decided to come back, I took up night shifts which suited my family better and it was in obstetrics which I’d completed a six month course in 1961 in Timaru.

“They’ve let me stay on a mixture of afternoon and night shifts all these years.

“From the new born unit to the delivery suite, I knew how to scrub for a caesarean.

“The staff have been great. There’s something about the night shift I’ve always enjoyed and for a while we had a permanent night management team where we all became quite close and we just got on with it. Nights went by really quickly.”

When asked what she’ll do in retirement she said it shouldn’t be too different.

“I’m only working a few extra days in the week. I guess my husband and I will have to get on seven days a week now instead of five” she says with a cheeky grin “but I’ve lots of things to do like my garden, weekly badminton and my monthly meals on wheels volunteering.

“I also really enjoy going to mid-week movies, especially on pension rates!”

“I am really going to miss work, I’m grateful I’ve still got good health and can do the things I want to.”

Jeanette has three children, two daughters’ one in Hamilton, one in Wellington, and a son in London, with a total of four grandchildren stating “But I will be free to better plan my family Christmas’ from now on.

“A few Christmas’ back my daughters planned a Christmas in Wellington and I said I don’t know whether I’ve got Christmas off yet.

“They both looked at one another and said who else’s mother still works at 75 and can’t get Christmas off?”

An inspiration to all, with a fun sense of humour she says most people seem to get it.

“It’s amazing how the years have just ticked over. I’ve lost my parents and friends, two of which were part of a close knit group of 10 friends that all trained together in Palmerston North – but it’s a natural progression of life really.

The comradery from her original training is special. She always wanted to be a nurse, not sit behind a desk and be a short hand typist – one of the few options available back then.

In terms of nursing she says “It hasn’t really changed, the technology has made the way we do somethings differently but the passion and people orientated desire to be a nurse hasn’t.

“And I’m glad to be leaving on a high note and that the DHB has allowed me to continue work well into my 70s. I’ve loved my nursing career.”

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