Born in 1933 in Auckland, Diana commenced nurse training at the Auckland School of Nursing in 1952, graduating in 1955. She had attended university for one year prior to her nurse training, and while working as a nurse aide during the holidays decided she wanted to go nursing, despite family reservations.
Diana tells the story of the charge nurse of an infectious ward who noticed that Diana was unwell, put her in bed in the doctor’s room and gave her a cup of tea: ‘I will never, never forget it’. She tells of the kindness of another senior nurse who would ask you if you had had a good time if you had been on late leave: ‘that was radical’. One year at Christmas the charge nurse gave each nurse a small drink of sherry, ‘if they were over 21 years and had their parents’ permission’. Reaction of senior staff to her father’s death was not, however, sensitive.
She remembers the life in the Nurses’ Home as ‘fun and supportive of each other. Nurses shared a lot of things, clothes, makeup and boyfriends’. And the food was good, ‘we were much more looked after than we realised’. Social life of student nurses included movies and dances; sometimes when a ship was in port, a sailor would phone the Nurses’ Home to ask if anyone would like to go out with the sailors.
Following graduation Diana went overseas, where she nursed in a poor area of London, in Israel where she worked with child immigrants from the Yemen, and at the Royal Melbourne Hospital on her way home. On the way home, in 1957, she married her English boyfriend, Jon. Back in Auckland, Diana was worked as a registered nurse in the Auckland Blood Bank, a role she found satisfying and much more autonomous than hospital nursing, ‘a whole different atmosphere’. She left work after adopting the first of her two children, born in 1960 and 1963 respectively. During the children’s early years Diana was involved with Parents’ Centre, Plunket and Play Centre as a mother but was very much identified as a nurse.
In 1969 Diana became Nurse Tutor for the Auckland School of Nursing where she remained in the 1970s whilst undertaking a Diploma in Nursing Studies at Massey University. She continued in nursing education for the rest of her career, as Nurse Educator, In-service Department, Auckland Hospital from 1980 to 1990, and tutor for Students for Enrolment, Auckland Hospital Board, 1991-2, and Tutor and Monitor, IV and CPR Training for the Hospitals Association from 1993 to 2002.
Diana reflects on nursing education reforms starting in the 1970s including the bad press that hospital-based tutors were given. Whilst a tutor in paediatrics, she hosted the matron of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital who visited New Zealand during the International Year of the Child in 1979. She explains how the matron was opposed to the American system of nurse training, declaring, ‘they can conceptualise but they can’t catheterise’. Diana reflects on what should be core nursing skills: ‘awareness of bedside skills, practical, hands-on nursing’, skills which were intrinsic to the training of the 1950s.
Auckland School of Nursing 1952
26 JUN 2012
Fostex FR-2LE Digital Recorder
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Diana Stuart-Masters: