As Helen Chapman holds up a porcelain bedpan, she reflects on the many miles she’s travelled and the stories she’s told over her 40-year nursing career.
Leaving her hometown of Tamworth in 1980, Helen started her nurse training at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst. The move to Sydney was quite an eye opener for the country girl, but with it bought great opportunity.
“I have many fond memories of my time in Sydney but one of the highlights was my theatre training and getting to scrub in twice for bypass surgery with Victor Chang,” she said.
Her first placement was at St Vincent’s Private Hospital where she recalls the original paintings that decorated the walls, the baby piano that sat in the foyer and the affluent patients she cared for.
“We used to wash bedpans and place in an urn with boiling water to sterilise before flushing out with a long stick and putting them on a rack to dry.
“Urine had to be boiled to check for protein, as with urine glucose levels, no fancy machines for that,” she said.
Helen soon left the Lord’s and Lady’s in Sydney for the Emergency Department in Alice Springs.
“It was the biggest ED between Port Augusta and Darwin at the time and I mainly treated patients for solvent abuse and TB, it was an eye opener from where I had come from.
“It was such a wonderful experience and was a steppingstone to the years I would spend in Perth and Port Headland”.
Being away from home eventually took its toll and Helen wanted to return to the east coast.
In 1991 she arrived in Mackay and while she has been a Clinical Nurse on Medical ward for the most part, Helen has also worked across varying roles in the hospital.
It’s the simple love of helping people that has kept Helen at the Base Hospital for 29 years and she now only travels for leisure.