Paul Frische was born in Holland in 1946. His family immigrated to New Zealand when he was four years old and lived in Whangarei. He was unsure of what to do after he left school, and a friend suggested becoming an orderly at Whangarei Base Hospital. Paul’s younger brother was also a hospital orderly. Paul worked there for a year in 1965 – he says the orderlies were mostly males, and remembers racing the linen carts in the evenings and jumping out at the nurses coming on duty. The matron there suggested he try nursing, and so Paul began his general nurse training in Auckland in 1966. He remembers that his parents were ‘pretty disappointed’ in his decision, and never came to his graduation, but says it was his choice and he was ‘very happy doing it’.
In Paul’s class at Green Lane Hospital, there were two men and twenty-three women. The other man, Paul’s friend Colin, only lasted six weeks before dropping out and returning home, although another joined shortly after. Paul recalls hearing people comment that ‘most male nurses are gay’, and asking him ‘Where is your handbag?’, but mostly he got respect. As a male nurse, he was only allowed to nurse men aged sixteen and over, and his training was separate from that of the women. He says he always felt supported by the senior nursing staff, although his workload was often more than that of the female nursing students. There were tests and exams throughout, which had specific papers for male students. Paul describes his first days in nursing school.
Paul was able to join the female nurses in their training after the first year, and he did socialise with them. However, he was not allowed to be in the school photograph; the men had their own photograph with the principal tutor, matron and head of school. There were also separate living quarters, and Paul says it was useful to have another male student because he found studying on his own difficult and he was not allowed in the Nurses’ Home. The end of the corridor of the male quarters was blocked off from the main corridor, so Paul had to walk outside to get to the main hospital, and he recalls sensing the idea that ‘males can’t be trusted’. He says it was lonely in the male quarters as the other man was likely to be on an opposite shift, but Paul had a car which helped. He made friends with the female students and socialised with them outside the hospital. The male quarters did not have a curfew, and the men had their own keys, although they were not allowed female visitors. Paul was flatting by the end of his training. Smoking and alcohol were prevalent, but because of low wages they were unable to purchase big quantities of alcohol. He was not involved in hospital social activities, and was ‘made to feel that males and females shouldn't be interacting’. Yet Paul describes some of the fun they had as students.
Paul graduated in 1969 but was not allowed to attend the graduation ball. On becoming a registered male nurse, he became a staff nurse at Cornwall Hospital. As male nurses who were ‘double certified’ with a psychiatric qualification seemed to have a better scope for the future, he decided to enrol in psychiatric training at Kingseat Hospital for two years. He says the pay was better but the hours were longer, and there was a lack of teaching staff. There were also separate male and female living quarters, and he remembers that an electrician had once set the fire alarms to go off around three o’clock in the morning to see how many men could be caught coming out of the Nurses’ Home. After he got married in Palmerston North in 1970, he began working at the Manawaroa Centre. He says this was the ‘exact opposite’ of Kingseat – small, minimal use of drugs and ECT, and group therapy sessions. Paul remembers this as a very supportive environment. Paul explains how psych nursing differed from general nursing.
Paul was offered a position back at Whangarei Base Hospital in 1975 but after he moved there it was reneged on due to staffing cuts. He worked as a labourer for a ship building company for six years, earning more money than he would have in nursing, and also ran the first aid room and kept up his practicing certificate. When his working hours became too disruptive to his family life, he decided to return to nursing. He began at Whangarei Hospital in 1983, initially in the Psychiatric Unit. He became a Charge Nurse after three years, and says that having both a male and a female at the top ‘balanced things out’. At Whangarei he drew on all his previous experience but also notes how things had changed since his training.
Paul recognised the need for further education if he wanted to branch out, and so he completed his Advanced Diploma in Nursing in 1988. He was appointed Nurse Manager of the new Rehabilitation Unit at Whangarei Hospital in 1990, which later incorporated a Stroke Unit, and which was hard work. Paul became the national counsellor for the Stroke Foundation where he remained until 2004. He then became a community gerontology nurse caring for people from the Rehabilitation Unit in their homes. He reflects on his experiences as Charge Nurse at Whangarei.
Paul decided to retire in 2014 after thirty years at Whangarei Hospital. He says nursing has been a very rewarding career, where he has met many people and seen many changes in nursing. He says he found training on the job ‘has a lot going for it’, and that he sees many nurses today doing less of what he believes to be true nursing tasks. He reflects on changes in nurse training.
This link will take you to the abstract summarising the full interview with Paul Frische: