Beverley (Bev) Rayna (nee Wootton) was born in Christchurch in 1947. Her sister was a nurse and working overseas by the time Bev left school; Bev consequently saw nursing as providing a good qualification and the ability to travel. Her parents encouraged her to go nursing and she saw it as a way to pursue studies in a structured environment.
She applied to Princess Margaret Hospital and began training in April 1965. Princess Margaret had a good reputation – ‘it was the best in the country’ – and the nurses were proud to work there. At Preliminary School the students wore grey and white striped uniforms with starched cap, collars and belt held together by studs. A small sign attached to their apron strap said ‘PTS’ (Preliminary Training School). She enjoyed Prelim, and remembers that the work was not difficult. There were three tutors who taught them basic skills such as how to make a bed. She recalls practising bandaging and not being able to go to lunch until the bandages were wound tightly enough. There were about 70 students in Bev’s class – they attended Prelim during the week and were always seated in the lecture theatre in alphabetical order. When Bev entered the training school she was not accompanied by her parents like other students but by her boyfriend. However, she made sure her parents attended her Prelim graduation.
The hospital had a hierarchy: once the students passed their junior state exams, they received a white triangle which was sewn onto the left sleeve, and Bev recalls that they felt superior to the junior students. Communication supported the hierarchy: nurses always passed information onto the ward sister, not directly to doctors, but there was mutual respect between the ward sister and the doctors. On reflection, Bev thought that the hierarchy helped the hospital to function.
A new class started every three months and the classes merged after the state exams as class sizes fell due to nurses dropping out. Bev lived in the Nurses’ Home, a multi-storey building, while training. As they gained more seniority, the students moved up one floor. All meals were supplied: Bev recalls, ‘I've never eaten so much in my life’. The students were allowed one all-night pass and one 1.30am pass a week. Otherwise, they had to be in by 11.30pm. Marriage ‘was not encouraged by any means’. Bev remembers that one person in her class got married during her holidays and when she returned she was immediately rostered on night duty. Towards the end of training some people moved out of the Nurses’ Home. Most had boyfriends and at the weekend girls would go out in groups to parties. Bev recalls that quite a bit of alcohol was consumed but not even empty bottles were allowed in the Nurses’ Home. There were social activities within the hospital, such as those on Christmas Day.
The nurses sat their state final exams in their grey uniforms but after their results came out they changed to a blue uniform and were assigned to a ward. Bev graduated in 1968 and stayed in the arterial and surgical ward where she had been as a senior student. ‘The big change being registered was that you didn't actually have to do any nursing.’ At times, when she was unsure about what to do in her new role as staff nurse, she would help out the students with the nursing care.
After a time, Bev moved to theatre because of a shortage of staff but did not like it because of a lack of patient contact and a ‘horrible’ sister. After this she spent a year on night duty in the medical, arterial and surgical wards. In 1971 Bev applied and was accepted for a midwifery course at St Helen’s Hospital in Wellington, which took six months, but she found post-natal work lacking in interest compared to being on surgical wards.
The following year she was appointed tutor at the Junior School of Nursing, Wellington Hospital, and thus started a career in nursing education. In 1973 she was asked to do the Diploma of Nursing at the School of Advanced Nursing Studies, and chose to study education. The sponsored course was one year full-time. Bev loved being a full-time student. She was not particularly aware of heated discussions at the time around the Carpenter Report, which recommended nursing being taught in educational institutions rather than hospitals: Bev was newly married and not very interested in the political side of nursing. Her husband took a job at Canterbury University, and Bev moved with him to Christchurch where she was appointed tutor in the Nursing programme at the technical institute in 1974. She studied part-time and did a paper every year for eighteen years until she finished her Bachelor of Arts degree. Bev was involved with the Canterbury Branch of the Registered Nurses’ Association, of which she later became President, and also of ATTI (Association of Tutors in Technical Institutes) at the Christchurch Technical Institute.
Bev taught third year students for twenty-four years at Christchurch Technical Institute (later renamed Polytechnic). She became Head of Department in 1984. She and a group of staff were very involved in developing the cultural safety components of the course, and the polytechnic kaumatua and Maori studies tutors supported the teaching. Bev gained a Master of Business Administration degree and became responsible for finances as the Head of Department. After the department restructured in 1995, none of the three heads of department wanted to be the sole head, and so they all left.
In 2000, Bev was appointed to the Nursing Council of New Zealand and served as deputy-chairperson and chairperson for a number of years. As convenor of the Health and Disability Committee, she handled disciplinary hearings, saying that ‘it sounds silly to say but I really actually enjoyed those, I’m a detail person’. She found the Nursing Council work particularly rewarding.
Bev is currently on the committee of the Christchurch School of Nursing Association, and thinks it’s important to have ongoing contact with nurses and the nursing profession. She thinks there were many things done in nursing in her day which are only now being recognised as important.
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Beverley Rayna: