Retired nurse Helen Smith has seen many changes in her long career, particularly in  technology and training levels, but says nursing still comes down to wanting to help people.
Mrs Smith (nee Macdonald) left Dunstan Hospital on November 5, having spent the past 40 years working as an enrolled nurse in Vincent Ward and in outpatients.
She said she had spent more time on her local golf course in Clyde lately, but was not yet becoming fully accustomed to retirement.
As a girl, she always wanted to be a nurse.
“I kind of liked the blood and gore of playground accidents,” she said, with a laugh.
“It’s something I always wanted to do.”
She also spent five or six months on a working holiday in Australia, “just to prove to myself that I could work outside of Dunstan”, she said.
People often asked what her favourite aspect of nursing was, but Mrs Smith said it was a difficult question to answer.
“There’s many facets to nursing _ just generally helping people.
“It’s a team effort – it’s not a one-person effort.”
It was very important to be able to leave work at work, Mrs Smith said.
“Patients are not my family and I don’t have ownership of their illness.”
She started her career at the age of 17 as a nurse aide at Cromwell Hospital, then moved to Cherry Farm Hospital in Dunedin as a trainee psychiatric nurse, but found its training programme did not suit her.
She then went to Hokitika to train in what at the time was called community nursing, where she met her future husband, Graeme.
Much had changed in the time Mrs Smith worked in nursing, in terms of technology, staffing and training, she said.
In her early days, when nurses administered intravenous fluids, “we had glass bottles, one feeding the other”.
“We had no machinery at all back in the ’60s.”
When she first started nursing, “you wouldn’t have had a male nurse in there”, but now male nurses were more common.
Nurses also had to be “more tech-savvy” now than previously, had to complete a three-year degree plus a graduate year, Mrs Smith said.
As for her future plans, the keen golfer also has an e-bike and often rides to Alexandra and back to meet people for coffee.
She is eagerly waiting for international borders to reopen so that she can visit her son, daughter-in-law and 13-year-old granddaughter in Australia, and also plans to spend more time visiting her daughter, son-in-law and 8-year-old granddaughter in Sumner.
“But I haven’t actually developed any new hobbies,” she said.
“I haven’t been retired for long enough to even think about developing any new hobbies.”

New role a world away