Nurse Ruth Turton, of Lismore Base Hospital, celebrates her 50th year in the profession this month.
Nurse Ruth Turton, of Lismore Base Hospital, celebrates her 50th year in the profession this month. Jay Cronan

Half a century of caring

LISMORE nurse Ruth Turton was 17 years old when she was confronted with her first patient and her first naked man.

The man was brought into St George Hospital in Sydney with 90 per cent burns to his body.

“He was burnt to a crisp and looked like a log,” Mrs Turton said.

She had never seen a man with no clothes on and when she was asked to ‘roll the patient’ she didn’t have time to think about it and just did it, she said.

Mrs Turton describes herself as ‘a boots and all kind of person’ and, at the age of 67, she is full of bounce and passion for her job as a nurse at Lismore Base Hospital as she celebrates 50 years of nursing this month.

She tried to retire once, when she was 58. She left Sydney after she and husband Jim bought an old, rundown farmhouse at Nimbin on ‘the spur of the moment’.

But she couldn’t stay away from her calling and went back to general nursing at the short stay unit at Lismore Base Hospital.

She had been a midwife for 20 years and was thrilled to be back where she started with nursing.

“I hadn’t done general nursing since ’63 but I thought I’d give it a bash,” she said.

Starting back wasn’t too different, she said. Gone were the white veils nurses used to wear and there were a lot more gadgets – but the basics of nursing were the same.

“You still nursed the whole patient,” she said.

Gone too, were the long ‘nightingale wards’– where 36 patients would be in rows of beds in one ward and there weren’t privacy screens like in today’s hospitals.

Lismore’s nursing unit manager Kym Hickey has worked with Mrs Turton for some years.

“Ruth is an amazing lady, she has boundless energy and is always cracking a joke,” she said.

Humour is the most important quality a nurse can have, Mrs Turton said.

“Ruth is very cheeky,” said registered nurse Jennie Dwyer.

“I hope I’m as good as her after 50 years of nursing.”

Nurse Turton is likely to add another eight years, at least, to her career.

“I can work until I am 75; I probably won’t be able to walk then,” Mrs Turton joked.



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