Kamiria ‘Kim’ Gosman (nee Pou, aka Newman) was born in Wellington in 1936, and, apart from a few years in Huntly, grew up in the Wellington region. She is of Ngā Puhi and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa descent. Her decision to go nursing was partially influenced by the week she spent in hospital after being hit by a car at age twelve. Her parents were not initially keen on her becoming a nurse, however later on it was her father that persuaded her to become a nurse aide and pursue a nursing career.
Kim became a nurse aide in 1953 at Wellington Hospital. She was assigned to tasks such as making hospital beds, scrubbing napkins, and feeding patients in the children’s ward. After less than five months of nurse aiding, Kim describes unexpectedly being accepted into nurse training without having applied.
Starting nurse training at Wellington Hospital was ‘exciting, scary, [and] new’. Kim recalls being ‘physically examined from head to toe’ to check that she was capable of performing nursing duties. In first year the student nurses would spend a block attending classes Monday to Friday. Kim recounts that the curriculum was comprehensive and the tutors were ‘really good teachers’. When on the wards junior nurses would typically assist with tasks such as panning, however Kim went straight to a more senior role. She explains that all the girls in her block were promoted faster than usual because there were fewer staff in the year ahead.
There was a clear hierarchy within the student groups based on seniority. Kim explains that ‘you never walked through the door in front of someone who was in the class six months before you’. The doctors were also held in high regard. When they walked in the ward nurses were required to stand to attention with their hands behind their back. Kim reflects that these protocols and hierarchy did not seem unusual because status and class were a part of wider New Zealand society; people ‘didn’t cross those social barriers.’
Tuberculosis (TB) was a major concern in hospitals in the 1950s. Throughout her training Kim describes having to adhere to rigorous hygiene and isolation techniques for TB patients. The drugs available were very different from today, Kim reflects. Opiates were available but nurses had to be 21 to sign out morphine. Kim recalls that heroin was still being used when she was in her first year. Obstetricians liked to use heroin as pain relief for women in childbirth, and were unhappy when it was prohibited.
Kim worked as a theatre nurse after completing her training in 1957. It was during this time that she met her husband-to-be Allan Furner. They moved to Australia after marrying in 1958 when Kim had completed her theatre nurse training. She had two children before Allan unexpectedly passed away in 1967. After a couple of years Kim made the move back to New Zealand to live closer to her parents who had offered to support her in raising her children. This allowed Kim to pursue midwifery training in 1970 at St Helens Hospital Wellington; it had been an aspiration of hers since nursing school. Following her training she worked as a Charge Nurse at Hutt Hospital in the post-natal ward for a year and a half, and was then sent to teach maternity at the School of Nursing. Kim recalls teaching male nurses, and describes them as being majorly disadvantaged by the nurse training system because men were not allowed men to train in the post-natal ward.
Unable to get a job working in maternity, Kim undertook Plunket training in Wellington in 1975. The 26 week programme was very ‘comprehensive’, being taught by paediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists and university lecturers. When working for Plunket Kim was involved with running a trial mobile Plunket clinic in Hamilton for the 1979 Year of the Child. With her second husband Ramsay and their family of four teenagers and baby, Kim moved to National Park in late 1979. They bought a service station where Ramsay worked and Kim continued with nursing both for the mountain health service and at the local prison. At Waikune Prison she was the ‘medical officer’, a position usually held by ex-military medics. Kim discusses having a ‘conflict of cultures’ and making changes to the prison’s medical services because she was concerned for the rights and health of the inmates.
By the time Kim had finished her role at the prison her second marriage had dissolved. She was asked teach midwifery at Waikato Polytechnic in 1981. Working and living away from home Monday to Friday, Kim was supported by her new partner (future husband) Jim who cared for her young daughter in Taumaranui while she was away. During this time Kim also studied social science at Waikato University. She recalls that there were debates in her university courses around the place of Plunket in the New Zealand healthcare system.
She returned for a short time to clinical work in 1986 as Day Supervisor of Taumara nui hospital, before moving to Whitireia Polytechnic as a tutor. It was around this time that Kim felt an increasing awareness of her Māori identity. She undertook papers in Māori Studies and learned to speak te reo Māori. As a tutor she also participated in the Māori student nurses hui in 1985 which involved discussions about how to include Māori culture in health training and practising. Kim took on a role in health services for the Iwi Ngāti Tuwharetoa in 1993. In this position Kim worked closely with promoting Māori health services and was involved with developing an Iwi Health Plan, which aimed to train and employ people from Ngāti Tuwharetoa as health practitioners. ‘My nursing background gave me courage, skill and knowledge to do this work.’
Kim worked for with Tuwharetoa for 15 years and remained involved with the Iwi through the Waikato District health Board. Kim reflects that nursing played and continues to play a significant role in her life. ‘Nursing still influences what I do today…what I think and how I do things’.
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Kim Gosman: