Annette Delugar was born in 1945 in Te Puke, and was brought up on a farm. Her mother’s ambition was that ‘her only daughter would be educated’ and her father wanted her to do as well as her two aunts had, who were both nurses. She felt a responsibility to uphold the family name.
After leaving school at seventeen and working in a bank for a few months, Annette applied to Middlemore Hospital, commencing her training in April 1963. There were fifty-five girls in her class, but a very small number of that group completed their training. She describes Preliminary School as ‘like being in school again’. The text-books the students had were all written by doctors and Annette considers the level of knowledge the books had about nursing to be ‘really very poor’. They had tests throughout and examinations at the end of Prelim. To study, the students practised on dummies or each other. She reflects that they didn’t challenge anything.
After Prelim the students could request where to go: Annette had a brother at Auckland University so she and a few friends transferred to Auckland Hospital. The shifts were eight hours long and they arrived ten minutes before each shift – ‘it was unacceptable to be late’. As a junior nurse, Annette did very basic tasks, such as cleaning bedpans, and doing ‘oral hygienes and patient sponges’. She says she didn’t particularly enjoy it but knew you had to do it. She recalls that she felt ‘much more confident by the end of first year’ and loved interacting with patients. Annette became involved with the New Zealand Nurses’ Association, and remembers the beginnings of dissatisfaction with nurse training. She recalls feeling that ‘as a student getting ready to do OE [overseas experience], I always knew that the theory was inadequate’; they ‘didn't understand the theory’ - ‘you just did it’. She reflects that nursing then was task-oriented and not patient-oriented.
Annette lived in the Nurses’ Home at Auckland Hospital. The meals were all provided, but the nurses had to do their own washing: Annette says that she ‘had been spoilt’ at home but quickly learned how to use the old washing machine at the Nurses’ Home. She says that it was quite social but it was hard to keep up with her old school friends so she made new friends. Initially Annette didn’t go out at night as she ‘didn't want to fail anything’ and she ‘could see that those who went out too much tended not to do as well’, but she says she did help other people wanting to come in through the window after their eleven o’clock curfew. No men were allowed into the nurses’ bedrooms, which Annette says the male visitors found ‘quite amusing’, and she remembers one nurse who was found with a man in her room was dismissed immediately. It was possible to have boyfriends – Annette went out with her friend’s brother – and they were allowed to marry although no-one in her class did so (Annette herself never married). They were allowed to live out of the Nurses’ Home, but Annette says that ‘some didn’t go so well’. There was no alcohol, although it was smuggled in, and ‘everyone smoked’. Annette remembers that the nurses supported each other in the Home after their shifts: they would reflect on the positive and negative things that happened, and that there was always someone around to support you. She describes the Home Sisters.
After the hospital final exams, the students became fourth-year unregistered nurses. The state final exams were held six weeks later. Annette says that groups of students would study together because they were ‘determined to pass as we’d got this far’. After the state final results had come out, the nurses picked up the red epaulettes that were part of the staff nurse uniform, and began working. As soon as she’d graduated, Annette began working a five-day week, and shared a flat with three other nurses which she describes as being a ‘big adventure’. She decided to spend one year working as a staff nurse before travelling.
In 1968, Annette travelled with a nursing friend to England. She was there for two years, and found it very easy to get a job. She did private nursing for a while before becoming the night sister at Chelsea Pensioners’ Hospital. She felt if she stayed much longer she ‘might not want to go back’. After staying with her cousin in America for six weeks and visiting the hospitals in the area, Annette returned to New Zealand. She had decided to do her midwifery training to ‘settle me down’ after two years away, and was accepted to St Helen’s Hospital in Mt Albert in Auckland. The training was for six months, and it was ‘apprentice style: we worked off our feet...six days a week’. Annette considered becoming a midwife but felt she was too young and inexperienced.
From 1970 to 1976 Annette was a Charge Nurse at Auckland Hospital, and from 1977 to 1985 Nurse Supervisor. When she began nursing at Auckland in 1970, she ‘quickly realised [she] needed further education’.
Annette completed her Diploma in Nursing at the School of Advanced Nursing Studies in Wellington in 1972, and enjoyed it so much that she commenced part-time study at Massey University, completing a Bachelor of Arts in 1992 and a Master of Arts with merit in Applied Nursing at Victoria University of Wellington in 2001.
Annette recalls that being a Nurse Supervisor in the 1970s and 1980s was ‘hugely challenging’ and that working with the new comprehensive nursing graduates ‘wasn’t easy’- they had proper orientation but were inexperienced. By that time nurses were no longer doing the cleaning, and there was a lot of disposable equipment – ‘you could feel the change’. In 1988 she became a Nurse Educator at the Manukau Institute of Technology, where she remained until 2011. Annette is now working two days a week at a retirement complex, and says she is using all her education skills. She has always felt that her career was worthwhile.
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Annette Delugar: