Nurses’ stories join Discovering Our Doctors project at Forbes Medical Centre

The nurses of Forbes have been recognised for their extraordinary contribution to medical care at the unveiling of this year’s Discovering Our Doctors panels, part of Forbes Heritage 2018.

Three panels looking at early nursing in Forbes, the matrons and head sisters, and those who served in World War II, have been added to the walls at Forbes Medical Centre.

The panels – extensively researched by local Kerry Neaylon – tell the story of early nursing in Forbes, the need arose as the population grew with the discovery of gold on the Lachlan. 

“Most were trained – some were not. But what is evident is that they were caring women devoted to helping others,” the panel says.

Mary Strickland, 1825-1918, was amongst the first nurses and midwives in the area, the unofficial doctor as medical help was some 150km away.

The panels go on to tell the stories of many nurses and midwives who followed, working in private hospitals, 

They acknowledge those who served in World War I and II – including Ruby Dickinson who passed away while serving and was buried with military honours in England. 

At Thursday’s unveiling, long-time local nurse Margaret Miller spoke about how times had changed since she did her training. 

“In my day we had to stand with hands behind our back, if any senior came into the room we had to stand and so forth ... but we still managed to do the finals,” she said.

“We had the doctor with all the rigmarole on the table, picking it up and saying what’s this? What’s it used for? What’s the treatment?”

Ms Miller shared stories of the 1952 floods, when the town was divided into three sections so two doctors stayed in each of the isolated areas. 

She told of stressful times – a power blackout while a child was on a respirator, seriously ill babies in care. 

“The nursing staff were just wonderful, they just rose to all the occasions,” Ms Miller said. 

And she urged young people training in the medical professions to consider the country.

“To any of the staff now doing the uni course, don’t ever forget the hospitals in the country – that’s where you get your experience,” she said.

Former hospital matron Mavis Payne also spoke of the contribution of the nursing staff to the hospital and community.

“They are part of the history, they are history itself, every life, every baby,” she said.

“All I can say is, that they have got my highest praise and I thank them all.”

Dr Apollonia Lobo, who is honoured along with husband Dr Blaise Braganza on the other panel unveiled Thursday night, added, “without them, the hospital would not be the place it is. Thank you.”