WHEN St John of God Midland Public Hospital midwife Mieke Slee started working as a nurse 54 years ago, she was living in nursing quarters and rode her bike to patients.
Now at 71 and the oldest employee at the hospital, Mieke works in the Visiting Midwifery Service, providing advice to mums with newborn babies in their homes to ensure they are coping mentally and physically.
Looking back at her time as a nurse ahead of this week’s International Midwives Day, Mieke said it was hard to compare her early days in nursing with today’s profession.
“When I started there was no occupational health and safety, no disposable goods and we were living in nursing quarters working long shifts,” she said.
“Lights out was at 10pm and wages were two and six pence per week.”
Mieke’s association with St John of God Health Care started as a 17-year-old when she completed her training at St John of God Ballarat Hospital.
She went on to work as a nurse in the Outback and in developing countries.
“I continued my studies through my career and gained qualifications in midwifery, child health, theatre, ICU, counselling, sport and recreation, family and sexual health, addiction studies, forensic and prison health, and becoming an enhanced midwife,” she said.
She rejoined the organisation last year after she transferred from Swan District Hospital when it closed in November.
St John of God Midland Public Hospital chief executive Glen Power said the hospital was fortunate to have retained Mieke on opening the new hospital.
“We are extremely grateful that Mieke’s insights and skills are available to benefit both our patients and staff,” Dr Power said.
Mieke said when she began her career, child and community health was done on push bikes and public transport, and being a matron in the bush meant caring for all living creatures, not just people.
“In Third World countries the care is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, with cultural beliefs and practices often being a major challenge,” she said.
“There are no regrets, just joy and passion for having chosen wisely.”