Today is Mother’s Day and to celebrate, I wanted to talk about nursing with my mother. My mother and I are both nurses, despite being trained differently and working very different lives. She has been a nurse through and through, having joined the profession in her teenage years. I started differently, having a career in politics and paramedicine before finding my way to nursing.
I still remember when I first told my mother that I was interested in becoming a nurse, and she reacted just as I expected, by telling me “You will become a nurse over my dead body!”
Despite our different entrances to nursing, we are both very passionate nurses and I have deeply appreciated getting to bond with my mother over the many unique and interesting experiences associated with a career in nursing.
My mother Camilla
Camilla Lommerse is an established nurse who undertook her nursing training as a teenager. She was trained first at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital then transferred to the then named Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital. She completed her training in the mid 1970s and commenced a career that has spanned fifty years and enabled her to work in a variety of roles.
Over the years, my mother worked in remote nursing, in casualty (as the emergency department was then known), phlebotomy, occupational health, corrections, film and television, palliative care, aged care, Indigenous health, community health, facilitation, wound care, and clinical management. Her career path shows that there are so many areas of nursing that are not acutely hospital-based.
Image: A photo of Camilla Lommerse in her nursing uniform. Photo supplied
Working as a nurse outside the hospital-based environment has meant that she has had experiences that are not considered run–of–the–mill for a nurse. She has been caught up in prison riots, been bitten by a dolphin, treated one of the first HIV+ patients in Queensland, been taught to drive a crane, and been given the honorific title of ‘Aunty’ by the local Indigenous Elders.
Nursing education was quite different to the education that we undertake now. A three-year nursing apprenticeship was the norm with paid practical work featuring strongly as the method of instruction. The training method followed a strict ‘see one, do one, teach one’ approach which is vastly different to the university-based education we have now.
Another major difference was that in the 1970s, student nurses were indoctrinated, often bullied and hierarchy was strongly enforced. For example, nurses were expected to stand and give up their chair whenever a doctor entered a room. Nursing students went from being complete novices on day one of their training to being in charge of a full Nightingale-style ward at the end of their apprenticeship.
My experience as a nurse has been vastly different to my mother’s. Camilla left school in year ten and studied nursing because “that’s just what you did then. You did year twelve and became a physio or doctor or left early and did nursing.”
Despite the warnings and being told my entire life “you’ll do nursing over my dead body”, I found myself studying nursing and graduated from the University of Southern Queensland in 2016. I did not go immediately, only attending after a foray into politics, paramedicine, and pastoral care. Since then, I have worked in rural care, in emergency departments, infection control, COVID-19 response, and education and facilitation.
Our careers have been very different, but I am still in awe of my mother’s journey through nursing and the knowledge she has gained. I have utilised my mother’s know-how on wound care and aged care protocols on numerous occasions, often making phone calls from storerooms to ask for tips and tricks. This is a prime example of how experience should never be discounted, and my mother’s story demonstrates how nursing is a career that can be varied and can be undertaken at any age.
Image: Louise Lommerse MACN getting ready in her nursing uniform. Photo Supplied
Mothers come in all shapes and sizes, and we would not be here without them. Happy Mother’s Day to the nurses who are mothers, step-mothers, aunts, grandmothers, foster mothers, adoptive mothers, and mothers in waiting. Thank you for your contribution to our lives and the nursing community.
Louise Lommerse MACN
Louise Lommerse MACN is a registered nurse based in Central Queensland. Louise works in both private and public emergency departments and has worked as a sessional academic. She has previously worked in rural nursing, infection control, and COVID response. Louise has an interest in disaster nursing, strengthening the role of nurses through policy development and education, and supporting undergraduate and early career nurses. Louise has undertaken studies in politics, criminology, paramedicine, disaster health care, and healthcare leadership. She is a regular contributor to ACN’s NurseClick blog.