St Vincent's Nurses Alumni

To all of our graduates, wherever you are throughout the world, we welcome each and every one of you to our website. 

The Alumni was originally established by nurse Ida O’Dwyer in 1923. Since then, it has provided a wonderful forum for members to socialise, share experiences, work together and foster lifelong friendships.       

The Alumni's Constitution states that 'the St Vincent's Nurses Alumni will act as a forum for nursing graduates and graduate nurse employees from the Sisters of Charity Health Services. It will enable them to meet socially and to work collaboratively with and for St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.'

The Alumni's objectives are to:

  • provide social opportunities for nursing graduates and employees, whereby friendship and goodwill will be fostered, memories shared and deceased members remembered
  • raise funds for defined hospital projects and other worthwhile causes approved by the committee
  • encourage and support the striving for nursing excellence at St Vincent’s 
  • promote the philosophy and values of the Sisters of Charity and the mission of St Vincent’s.

With more than 600 members from near and far and a conscientious committee of 14, the bonds of friendships made and memories shared continue on. 

Events and activities

Luncheon - Thursday 30 August 2018

This year we are celebrating 125 years of St. Vincents at the Park Hyatt on Thursday 30th August. Download the flyer.

  

Reunions

Reunions provide the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and former colleagues, share our stories and enjoy great conversation and company.

The stories below highlight just a few of our many reunions to date. If you would like to include your stories, or organise a reunion for your year group, contact Chloe Forster, Events Manager on Tel: (03) 9231 3287.
The St Vincent’s Foundation staff are happy to assist Graduates when planning your reunion. Please phone Foundation on 9231 3365 to discuss your plans.

Some of the details they can assist with are:
VENUE: The board room on Level 11 of the Main Hospital Building overlooking the museum is available to use and can seat up to 30 comfortably or larger numbers for buffet style gatherings.
DISPLAY: Archives can assist with a memorabilia display from your era.
CATERING: Zouki catering can be arranged on site.
HOSPITAL TOUR: A tour of the hospital may be possible depending on staff availability.

September 1955
In October 2009, our September 1955 PTS and spouses enjoyed our annual ‘get away’ for three days together in Bendigo. The trip was wonderfully organised by Bev Elliott and Gavan. Rita Phillips and Noel are planning the next get-together.

For the last 25 years we have experienced annual events ‘somewhere’ as couples, while the girls also enjoy twice-yearly lunches. Fifty years plus, ‘in touch’ and with many happy friendships.

Phyl Naughton (Commons)

March and May 1959
On Saturday 18 April 2009, a 50th year celebration lunch was held at the Park View Hotel on St Kilda Rd, combining the PTSs of March and May 1959. Of the 37 invitees, 27 accepted and four sent their apologies. Participants came from Deniliquin, South Australia, Tasmania and many regional and suburban areas. A most enjoyable time was had by all and plans were tentatively made for a further reunion to celebrate 50 years since graduation. We were able to support the Graduate Nurses' Association through the purchase of several books and many aprons. St Vincent's holds a special place in our hearts and memories.

Maureen Kent

January 1962
In September 2009 a group of ten girls attended a lunch for Mary Fagan (Quinlan), who was in Melbourne visiting from England where she has lived for many years. The group included Margaret Keogh, Mary Arter (Doherty), Brenda Ryan, Marea Corrigan (Cuereden), Frances Noye (Connellan), Mary Hevern, Margaret Klages (Rasmussen), Margaret Lowden (Dunn), Mary Fagan (Quinlan) and Kate Cross (Kathryn Hewitt Nov’61).
With a few glasses of champagne and lots of fun and laughter, a great time was had by all by going over the times spent at St Vincent's and sharing family photos and life experiences spent in different parts of the globe since those days. Time has gone so quickly.

March 1964
It is amazing how the ‘grapevine’ works. We were able to contact all but one of the 30 or 32 very naive young girls from everywhere who walked through the doors of the Nursing Home in March 1964. Of these, 22 were able to attend our Reunion held in October 2009.
It was just like coming back from holidays at the end of each year. There was so much to tell each other. We have all ‘worn’ very well and recognised each other – though we had name tags just in case! Our life stories were varied, interesting and in some cases amazing. Some have endured more heartache than others, but present in the room was this feeling of survival and awe at how they had managed to ‘come out the other side’. There was much laughter and it seems that the ‘defining part of our education’ was the trip to Surfers Paradise at the end of second year. The screams of laughter from little groups scattered around the room as they swapped stories were terrific.

The time went all too quickly. For a group photo we all tried to stand in the same position as our original graduation photo, and we left an empty seat in the middle for ‘absent friends’. The next morning, along with our partners, a few people were able to meet again for brunch. Astonishingly, as some of us stood at the counter to place our orders, who should walk in to have a ‘quiet’ breakfast with friends but Miss Evans – Carmel Evans, one of the night supers during our time. She couldn’t believe it. She has not changed one bit. We might add it was not a quiet breakfast as there was lots of noise and laughter coming from the other side of the restaurant!
We left each other with plans to meet again in March 2014 to celebrate our fiftieth year of ‘first meeting each other’. We plan to have the reunion at The Heritage Centre, as it is central with ramps for wheelchairs and handrails to negotiate the footpaths. We just might need them!

Diane Godson

 

Fundraising

The Association raises funds to donate to a wide range of important hospital projects and causes.

Money is raised on an ongoing basis through:

  • sales of the nursing history book, A Profession’s Pathway
  • the annual luncheon and associated raffles.

The Association has made the following donations over the last five years:

  • $10,000 for carpet installed at the Sister Francesca Healy Cottage in Fitzroy, where homeless people are able to stay and rest after discharge from hospital
  • $10,000 to the St Vincent's Department of Addiction Medicine
  • $10,000 annually for Post Graduate scholarships
  • $20,000 to the new St Vincent's Cancer Centre
  • $2,000 to The St Vincent de Paul Disaster Appeal (in memory of a St Vincent's graduate Mark Butler (1992) who perished in the bushfires),
  • Interplast – a volunteer surgical team traveling to third world countries to operate on people with cleft palates, etc,
  • $2,000 annual donation to Foundation for the Good Samaritan Fund. In 2017 donated 2 Dopplers and probes to the Plastics Unit. In 2018 donated a bariatric chair to the Emergency Department, 
  • Scholarships are disbursed annually for Nursing students studying at St Vincent's Hospital.
  • An annual Ida O'Dwyer award valued at $1000 was reinstated at the 2015 Graduation Ceremony.
  • Limited grants are available to members commencing 2015 to finance one off projects which are deemed to be aligned with Mary Aikenhead 's mission.
 

Nursing Publications

A Profession’s Pathway

In 2003 the St Vincent’s Graduate Nurses Association commissioned historian Mary Sheehan to research and write a book about the history and development of the profession of nursing at St Vincent’s Melbourne, from the time when the hospital first commenced as a training school in 1893 up to the present.

Mary, herself a graduate of the hospital in the 1960s, has written a truly wonderful story that incorporates the more serious side of training and senior personalities, alongside ‘down to earth’ recollections and photographs.

Included in the pages are contributions from many past nurses who have long memories of rules and techniques, along with a great sense of the fun and camaraderie that they experienced in their training days.

Although today’s society and the impact of modern technology continues to see improved treatment for injury and disease, each individual patient still requires professional efficient care, matched with kindness and consideration – aspects of nursing learned during training at St Vincent’s and proudly practised by graduates in their careers, working in countries throughout the world.

The maiden name of every nurse who trained at the hospital is listed in the book in order of years, along with a number of photos provided by former trainees and the hospital archives. A Profession’s Pathway is a well written history that is most enjoyable to read. It is a book that every graduate from St Vincent’s will want to own and keep as a reminder of both good and trying times, and of the contributions we all made.

Copies can be purchased for $39 each (plus $10 postage) by emailing Angela Griss at angegriss@bigpond.com or by calling Robyn Wignall on 0408 376 187. This book is also available to buy from the St Vincent's Foundation online store.

  

You’ll always get work

Edited by Wendy Fleming and Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper

In March 2006 at Mt Buller Chalet in Victoria, 12 members of the March ’56 PTS celebrated 50 years since they first met. At some time during the weekend the group came up with the idea of recording their life stories, setting them all on a project, which in November 2009 culminated in the publishing of a small booklet titled 'You’ll always get work'.

During the process, they all came to realise just how little they knew of each others’ life journeys. So often they heard ‘I didn’t know you did that...’ as the various experiences and photographs were shared. Thirteen of the original class contributed to the book which is dedicated to Regina Jones who died early in the project, and to Judy Henry who died in 2001.
Although at times everyone felt daunted by the undertaking, when Marietta Elliott-Kleerkoper offered her editorial services, they were confident of a professional product. Snap Printing in Heidelberg and Brougham Press ensured a polished finish.

Each contributor’s story is arranged in four sections – early childhood, training days, working and family, and their life today. Some tales are poignant, others amusing. The March ’56 PTS hopes readers enjoy following their lives, as they move from the restrictive environment of nurse training, into work and family and up to the present day.

You can purchase your copy of 'You’ll always get work' for $20 (plus postage) by emailing Wendy Fleming on wendy.fleming@optusnet.com.au or call Jan Jelleff on 0430 203 503. All proceeds from sale of the book go to the St Vincent’s Cancer Centre.

 

Sharing our memories

Fancy a trip down memory lane? Here are just a few of our stories and memories. We all have dozens that we can remember and share. If you would like to add your story or recollections to this page, email jill.mckenna@svhm.org.au.

On the Wards – My first ward was St Luke’s Male Surgical ward. Men!!  Shock horror!. We had only done our practise on women! On my first day the ward was very busy, two patients had died. I was asked to go with a third year nurse and deliver one of the bodies to the hospital mortuary. I had never seen a dead body before, and the patient was a very large, heavy man. After wheeling the trolley through the ward (where all the patient’s curtains were closed), we went down the back corridors, (with someone going ahead to check that no one was around), into a special lift, down to the ground floor and then through the outside courtyard to the back of the hospital.

As the senior in front stopped to knock on the closed door of the mortuary, the body started to slide backwards – towards me! I was horrified because I thought it was going to fall on top of me! Fortunately, the door opened before this happened. I have never forgotten that moment. 

Joy Phillips (Nov ’61)

Belts – During our time in PTS, we were taken to visit a uniform shop called Floorgales which specialised in making ill-fitting nurses uniforms. Looking back, I consider that our group were partly responsible for, or at least contributed some, to the story reported in the Truth Newspaper around that time titled, ‘Why did the nurses lose their belts?’

The only way to make the aprons an even half way decent length was to turn them up at the waist under the belt.  However, the intrepid Hospital Night Supervisor Miss Nellie Matthews was on to us, and at roll-call we all were told, ‘drop your belts’. Anyone found with their apron rolled up had their belts confiscated for a time. Some people were able to perform the task with such neatness that they ignored the instruction and were never discovered. Others waited until they were on the ward before rolling up the apron.
Jenny Davis (Nov ’61)

PTS  Preliminary Training School
Extracts from the handbook given to all new arrivals at PTS.

A Nurse’s Prayer 

Lord, this work I undertake,
For Thy name and for Thy sake.
Let all I do today
Be sanctified by Thee.

Clothe me with patient strength
All tasks to bear,
To cheer and comfort,
Through this and every day

A Nurse must be:

Punctual;
Obedient and loyal to all rules, as the foundation of her work;
Active, yet quiet;
Methodical, reliable, careful, clean and neat;
Observant, intelligent and economical;
Capable of self-control, persevering gentleness, tact, sympathy and common sense;
Careful to pay attention to professional etiquette, remembering what is due to those in authority;
Careful in manner and attention to Visitors or Patients’ friends, a duty Nurses in the pressure of their work are apt to overlook;
Careful to wear her uniform with spotless cleanliness, neatness, and simplicity; hair tidy, and general bearing that of military smartness;
Careful to be always guarded in her behaviour towards Doctors and Students.

Join the nurses alumni

If you are a St Vincent’s nursing graduate, why not join the Alumni?

Catch up with friends and former colleagues, share news, enjoy annual events and reunions, and keep up with what’s happening at the hospital. With more than 600 members from near and far and a conscientious committee of 14, the bonds of friendships made and memories shared continue on into the future.  

The Annual Membership Fee is just $25 per year, or the one-off Lifetime Membership Fee is $150. For more information or to become a member, contact the following:


President 

Robyn Wignall  0408 376 187

E-mail: robyn.wignall@bigpond.com

Mobile:0408 376 187

    
Secretary     

Clare Dyer

Email: cmmdyer@gmail.com

Mob: 0406 621 219

Treasurer 

Angela Griss  

E-mail: angegriss@bigpond.com

Mob: 0418 381 592



Join the Alumni

If you are a St Vincent’s nursing graduate, why not join the Association?

The annual membership fee is just $25 per year, or the one-off Lifetime Membership Fee is $150. For more information or to become a member, please click here.