Growing up as an Australian South Sea Islander woman in Mackay, Sharelle Johnson never dreamed she would become a nurse but always wanted to help people.
After 40 years as an Enrolled Nurse (EN), Sharelle is finally hanging up her hat and retiring from her job at Mackay Base Hospital.
“In those days after school you had to get a job to help support the rest of the family at home and you just assumed you weren’t good enough to do anything else,” she said.
“I automatically thought I would go into something like cleaning.
“When I was accepted into an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) role at Mackay Base Hospital I was so happy.”
Prior to taking on the role as an AIN, Sharelle had never stepped foot into a hospital. But a brief stint working in a Sydney nursing home set her on the path of healthcare.
“I spent a little bit of time in Sydney with my brother who was in the army and I had only just left school,” she said.
“There was an old nursing home not far from where he lived, and I walked in there and asked if there were any jobs going. I was looking for cleaning.
“They gave me another job actually helping with the patients. From then on I thought this is what nursing is all about and some of the Registered Nurses that I worked with paved the way for me.”
In August 1970, Sharelle started her first day as an Assistant in Nursing at Mackay Base Hospital.
“I can remember walking in on my first day into what was then B Ward where the medically ill patients were cared for,” she said.
“I had to bath the patients, do their temperatures, blood pressures and other normal jobs looking after them.
“I also had to do the flowers. I would take the flowers out of the patients’ rooms each day and when I brought them back into room in the morning, I loved seeing the big smiles on their faces.”
Sharelle worked as an AIN until 1974 when she started her EN training. It was after finishing her training that she gained experience in Theatres working at the former Lister Hospital and Pioneer Valley Hospital.
In 1985, Sharelle returned to the Mackay Base Hospital and she hasn’t left since.
Throughout her career, Sharelle has had the opportunity to work across several areas in health but her biggest passion is the health of her Australian South Sea Islander community.
“Health education and the health of my community are really important to me,” she said.
“I always try to encourage Australian South Sea Islanders to come to hospital if they need help.
“Don’t be shame to say there is something wrong and don’t leave it too long. There is no shame in being sick and we are here to help.”
With a career filled with wonderful memories, Sharelle lists her daughter becoming a Registered Nurse as one of her proudest moment in healthcare.
“My youngest daughter, Dannica, has been a nurse for approximately ten years and is working in the surgical ward at the Base,” she said.
“It is a very proud moment to be in a hospital where your daughter is working, and she loves it.”
Sharelle’s last day will be on 30 September and she plans on celebrating at work by having lunch with her daughter.