Born in Auckland in 1943, Margaret Horsburgh (nee Rickard) attended Cornwall Park Primary and Diocesan School for Girls. During the sixth form Margaret recalls tossing up whether to do nursing or medicine after leaving school. She describes being significantly influenced by her aunt who had trained to be a nurse before she married and recalls receiving no encouragement from her parents to do anything other than nursing.
After spending a year working in a bank, Margaret was old enough to go nursing and was accepted into the Auckland Hospital Board School of Nursing in 1961. The first twelve weeks of training were spent at Preliminary School mainly in the classroom and the demonstration room. The student nurses practised techniques on each other and a dummy name ‘Mrs Chase.’
Nurse trainees worked five days at the Preliminary School and spent Saturdays on the ward. Margaret explains that students learned ‘by osmosis’. ‘You pretty quickly picked it up’. The classroom teaching did not really relate to work on the wards. This was especially true when nurses went to a different hospital for experience because they would be working without background knowledge of the specialised field.
After Prelim School Margaret chose to do her nurse training at Green Lane Hospital. She had asked to be assigned there as she had a sense that this was the best place in Auckland to train. The alternatives were Middlemore Hospital which ‘seemed like the other end of the earth’ and Auckland Hospital which was ‘probably that much bigger and that much more impersonal’.
Margaret lived in the Nurses’ Home until the end of her second year. The girls developed close friendships working and living together. ‘You shared everything with your friends’. She recalls that at Green Lane it was common for nurses of different levels to mix. Shift work meant that the student nurses did not have a lot of time to go out. Margaret comments that going to the movies was particularly difficult because there was a curfew. The door to the Nurses’ Home would be locked at 10pm, meaning that if nurses arrived back late they would have to come in through a window.
Popular social activities for nurses included going to the movies, the beach and dances. The girls would also go into town for shopping and the coffee bars. Margaret describes going to dances at the ships in port and parties at the house surgeon’s residence. Nurses did not drink alcohol in a big way, although some girls would sneak bottles of spirits into some social occasions.
Upon completing training in 1964, Margaret stayed on at Green Lane Hospital and worked on the surgical ward. She describes the differences between being a staff nurse and a student included working five rather than six days, having a key to the drug cupboard and being involved in ward management. After six months Margaret travelled to Europe with some nursing friends. She describes it being easy to find work in London as a nurse, initially working in private nursing and then undertaking a one-year midwife training programme in 1966. Margaret comments on her shock of the conditions of childbirth in Britain. Unlike New Zealand, many women were having home births where living conditions were poor.
Margaret returned home to New Zealand in October 1966, and went back to work at Green Lane Hospital in the Cardio-thoracic unit and completed a post-graduate course in Cardio-thoracic nursing. She describes it as an exciting time to be working there as revolutionary new surgery was being practised. When Margaret completed her course she was put in charge of the Intensive Care Unit. She later became supervising sister, a role which involved running and teaching the cardio-thoracic course.
Wanting to be able to continue to advance in her career, Margaret decided to undertake tertiary study, completing a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Auckland in 1978. By the time she had finished her BA, Margaret was very aware of the changes in nursing education with the growth of comprehensive training. Margaret became a Nurse Tutor at Auckland Institute of Technology (AIT) in 1976, and later became a lecturer. Margaret’s interest in education continued to grow and she gained a Diploma in Education at Auckland University in 1983 and a Masters of Arts in Education (First Class Honours) in 1987. She felt that changes in nursing education were necessary and that student nurses should be trained in mainstream education.
In 1987 Margaret became the Head of the School of Nursing and whilst in this role she was also part of a team which developed a consultancy company which would get contracts to write academic papers and do curriculum development. From 1988 to 1990 Margaret was the Deputy Chairperson of the Nursing Council of New Zealand. Throughout the 1990s Margaret took on various roles and projects from being the Northern Regional Manager of the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, to being academic director working on establishing a degree programme for nursing at AIT, to undertaking and completing a doctorate on quality education at Charles Sturt University, Australia, in 1998.
In 1999 Margaret left AIT (now Auckland University of Technology), to establish a school of nursing at the University of Auckland. She was able to work alongside the medical school, which she describes as an advantage because they were aware of the importance of long stints of hospital experience for trainee health practitioners. Margaret held the positions of Assistant Dean and Director of Nursing between 1999 and 2002, Associate Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (2002-2004) and Associate Professor of Nursing (2004-2009). Margaret is currently an honorary Associate Professor at the University of Auckland. She describes nursing having been a great career for her and reflects on the changes in nursing education during that time.
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Margaret Horsburgh: