Marj began her training in 1963 at the Auckland School of Nursing. In Preliminary School, the students had lectures and practical work in the mock ward with the dummy patient called Mrs Chase. After Prelim, the students could choose which hospital to go to, and Marj chose Auckland Hospital with some friends. She remembers that they worked hard and had long hours. She describes an experience on the wards.
Marj remembers that the hospital had a pleasant atmosphere, but that some ward sisters could be demanding – for instance, the students were not allowed to leave at the end of their shifts until everything had been checked. She found the expectations too high at times, ‘but we coped’. She describes the ward sister who kept a watching brief over everything. She feels that the nurses provided TLC (tender loving care).
After a year at Auckland Hospital, she moved to Waikato Hospital which she liked very much, finding the hierarchy less stringent and more in keeping with the young students. She considered the Nurses’ Home at Auckland ‘dark and dreary, a bit like a nunnery’, but the one at Waikato was much nicer. They were allowed to go flatting in their second year with their parents’ permission, which Marj says was ‘a good experience for us’. They went to a lot of parties, and they used the taxi they took to work as an alarm clock for morning shifts on the days after parties. There were some coffee bars and restaurants but ‘mostly we made our own fun’. Marj had no trouble keeping up with her Auckland friends and her boyfriend, who visited regularly. She remembers the nurse trainees being very supportive of one another.
Marj graduated in 1966, and worked at Waikato Hospital on night duty – she says that ‘we quickly became aware of how much we didn’t know’. She remained there for a year before going to England where she worked in private nursing and in hospitals through a nursing agency from 1967 to 1970. She recalls that New Zealand nurses had a good reputation in England, and seemed to work harder than the others. She reflects on her time living in London.
Marj returned to New Zealand in 1970 and worked at Auckland Hospital. She did her midwifery training at St Helen’s Hospital and enjoyed working with the midwives. She also enrolled at Auckland University and studied psychology and education. Marj had become aware of drug use in England and had become interested in that area of work, and began working at the Drug Dependency Unit at Carrington Hospital in 1973. She says that in dealing with addicts ‘you really had to be tough. You had to have a warm heart and a tough head’. She finished her BA in 1980, and after a visit to Sydney, she and others established Odyssey House, a ‘drug-free therapeutic community’, in Grey Lynn, which later moved to Parnell. She was Director of Odyssey House from 1981 to 1983, which she thoroughly enjoyed although found it exhausting. She recounts an incident at Odyssey House.
In 1986 Marj enrolled at AUT to do a bridging Psychiatric training course in order to return to working in addiction, having worked briefly in other areas, although in the event she found this course ‘an absolute waste of time’. She worked at the Auckland Drug Dependency Clinic from 1986 to 1988. Marj later retired, and worked intermittently in health research, and from 2000 to 2004 she worked in the community for the North Shore Palliative Care. She reflects on the different styles of training between technical trained nurses and the old-style training.