An oral history of nursing
What was it like to train as a nurse in post-world war II New Zealand?
A two-year research project led by Professor Linda Bryder from the History Department is to give insight into this fascinating era in New Zealand’s health history.
The Nursing Education and Research Foundation (NERF) nursing oral history project aims to record the experiences and stories of older nurses who completed their basic training in the 1950s and 1960s.
Professor Bryder, with Professor Margaret Horsburgh and Dr Kate Prebble from the School of Nursing and independent historian Dr Debbie Dunsford, will carry out the project.
“These were decades of significant changes within the nursing profession and medicine, as well as within New Zealand society itself,” Professor Bryder says.
“During these decades nursing was overwhelmingly an occupation of women, and nurses’ experiences reflect many of the changes that occurred for women in the post-world war II era,” Dr Bryder says.
They anticipate interviewing 60 nurses covering a broad range of profiles, including an ethnic and geographical spread, hospital and community nurses, junior and senior (staff nurses and matrons), leaders and educators as well as those who left immediately after training to get married.
Professor Bryder says immediately following the war, nursing services in New Zealand were beset by serious manpower problems. There were many work opportunities for women other than nursing in an increasingly industrialised society. Additionally, there was a high marriage rate and women who had worked during the war returned to family life. There were serious shortages of candidates for schools of nursing. Demands for public health, Plunket, district and industrial nursing services added to difficulties in providing nursing services to hospitals.
The interviews will provide an important understanding of an aspect of New Zealand society during these decades and will be a future resource for researchers into history, health and nursing, as well as for the general public. The group aims to develop a website to display the results of the project.