From the age of 10, Kath Friar knew she wanted to become a nurse. She is now being awarded Hauora Tairawhiti’s prestigious fifty years of nursing service award.
Kath mentioned her very first interview to become a nurse was only 10 minutes long, a lot different to the process our undergraduate nurses have to undergo today. Kath trained and graduated at the Cook Hospital Nurses Home in 1968 where only four of her original classmates graduated alongside her.
“We had rooms allocated in Benjamin House and moved through Leipst House to Martin House every six months when a new intake came in. Initially we had to be in bed by 9pm and the house sister did frequent room check rounds. After three months we could get a special pass to be out until 11pm on Saturday night.
“The fortnightly pay back then was one pound 10 shillings and a penny. Once trained, I started as a staff nurse at Cook Hospital until the end of 1968 when I started my family. I later returned to full-time nights in 1983 in the chest ward, the beginning of my constant full time nursing career. I was at Cook Hospital until the move to Gisborne Hospital in 1985. I remember that first night well, floundering around in the dark with a torch and not really knowing where things were. Luckily, in the first few days there were not many patients.
“Asthma, diabetes and heart disease were frequent and severe but there weren't the number of co-morbidities there are now. I remember the first palliative care introductions, big anti-nausea doses for people receiving chemotherapy and pain medication delivered in syringe drivers, revolutionary. This started my interest in this field.”
After four and a half years of night duty, Kath took a job as a practice nurse which is where she spent the next 14 years of her nursing career. She enjoyed the triaging, wound care, listening, educating, the family links and generation wide range of nursing.
As general practice became more computer driven she looked for another area and became a casual district nurse in 2002. “Seeing people in their own environment adds richness and individuality to the person receiving care. When the opportunity opened to join the palliative care team, I was lucky to secure this and to continue with district nursing."
Kath plans on working for six more months and will retire in Tauranga. “Throughout my life I have been so grateful to have had nursing to return to. It is varied, people are so interesting and the role is challenging and rewarding at the same time.”