Born in Dunedin, 1947, Anne Coup (nee Pearce) grew up in the Dunedin and South Canterbury area. She left secondary school at the end of sixth form having gained School Certificate and University Entrance. Nursing was a career that had interested Anne since she was a young girl. At primary school she read books that inspired her to be a nurse.
Applying to go nursing, Anne notes that her parents had to sign the application forms and give permission for her to have vaccinations because she was under twenty-one. When she began on the wards Anne recalls that the first year nursing students were ‘basically domestics’.
Anne describes that in her first year she was questioning whether or not nursing was something she wanted to do because it seemed very regulated and boring. By the time she progressed further through training, however, she found that she loved nursing. Senior student nurses had greater responsibility and they learned things that Anne found far more interesting. By their second year the nurses were in charge of the ward and did the medicine rounds. In the third year the nursing students trained in new specialist areas of nursing. Anne spent twelve weeks in obstetrics, rotating between the delivery suite, the antenatal ward and the postnatal ward.
On the wards the senior staff could be very strict. The Nurses’ Home also had some strict rules. The Home Sister would monitor their bed times and tell them to turn out the light.
By second year Anne and her friends got fed up with the Nurses’ Home and decided to go flatting. Living outside the Nurses’ Home was against the rules and they were summoned to the Matron’s office when they were discovered not to be living in.
The Nurses’ Home was very sociable. Anne describes it as being like ‘a big happy family’. The girls formed close friendships and would socialise together in their time off, going to movies, the beach, and town hall dances that were held every Friday night. The flat was also very social as it was in an area where many university students were also living. Alcohol was a big part of social life among the students.
Anne completed her training in 1967 and gained her registration in early 1968. After a short spell as a staff nurse in Dunedin Hospital, she moved to Australia where she worked for a nursing agency that placed her in hospitals throughout Australia. She experienced the differences between private and public care in Australia. She recalls being made aware of the true costs of health care because in Australia some patients had to pay for treatments that were provided free in New Zealand public hospitals.
During her time in Australia Anne undertook a course in Intensive Care because she felt that her training in New Zealand had not been sufficient to prepare her for nursing critically-ill patients. She explains that the course allowed her to learn anatomy and physiology ‘at the right depth’ and also taught her skills such as how to intubate patients. Upon her return to New Zealand in 1973 Anne was appointed as a ward sister at Dunedin Hospital and at age twenty-six she was the youngest ward sister in the hospital. She was later told that her methods broke the mould of how charge nurses traditionally acted. She worked more collegially with doctors, something she says that she was able to do because of her growth in knowledge and experience in Australia.
In 1975 Anne undertook a Diploma of Advanced Nursing in Wellington. She focused her studies on nursing education, as well as doing some sociology papers at Victoria University of Wellington. Paying her own way through study, Anne worked at Wellington Hospital every weekend and full-time in the holidays. She moved to Auckland in 1976 and studied full-time to complete her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. After graduating, Anne became involved in research on foetal breathing at National Women’s Hospital. She met her husband-to-be, Jack, who was working on the project as a data analyst.
In 1986 Anne applied for a job as a lecturer at the School of Nursing at Otago Polytechnic. Initially she worked part-time as a clinical lecturer, but a year later she was given a full-time role. Early on in her role she was given the task of designing a course on Health Promotion.
Later in her teaching career Anne was involved with establishing and running the Competency Assessment Programme. This involved teaching and assessing nurses coming from other countries in topics such as the Treaty of Waitangi, the New Zealand context of health, health ethics, and basic nursing procedures. Anne loved working with and supporting international students because they were so desperate to work in New Zealand and have a better way of life. In 2012 Anne retired after a career which spanned 48 years.
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Anne Coup: