Half a century to-the-year after qualifying as a registered nurse, Lyn Durno of Pinnacle MHN practice Lake Surgery in Taupo has recently hung up her trusty stethoscope, put away her blood pressure cuffs and waved goodbye to her colleagues and patients to step into the world of retirement.
Having officially retired on 1 March, Lyn confidently sums up her 50 years as a nurse as "incredibly rewarding". She shares fond memories of camaraderie with colleagues spanning decades, treating a third generation of families, and the 'old days' of simultaneously juggling her own career and family at a time when bringing her new born into work with her was not only accepted but admired.
Although she can't quite imagine practicing any other profession, she laughs as she recalls that her career didn't start out with quite as much enthusiasm. "I left boarding school and my parents firmly told me I could be a teacher or a nurse. I didn't much like my teachers at boarding school, so I chose nursing," she said.
"When I made the choice I initially regretted it because, quite simply, I didn't like blood or anything to do with working in a hospital! I remember as a nursing student having to do a stint in theatre and I fainted. The theatre sister was not amused. When I somewhat recovered 20 minutes later she made me go back in and continue what I was meant to be doing as a theatre assistant.
"Naturally, I got used to it all. Although funnily enough my initial fear must run in the family. They run a mile when it comes to blood and the like - maybe it's the stories I've told them that have put them right off!" she laughs.
Lyn's career started-off in 1967 after graduating as a registered nurse from the Memorial Hospital in Hastings. There she worked for about 18 months before marrying and making the move to Taupo in 1969.
"In fact, I was privileged enough to work at Taupo Hospital on night duty from the very day it opened. I was involved alongside other staff employed at the time, in helping set it up - processes, equipment, all sorts. It was lovely, there were only a few patients to begin with and it was exciting to be part of a hospital's inception," she said.
In the years following, Lyn had three children of her own, did a short stint at Taupo Health Centre, and started at Lake Surgery in 1981 when her youngest was just six weeks old. "I used to take him to work for a few weeks- at that stage Lake Surgery was a lot quieter so it was very manageable. Colleagues and patients very much enjoyed having him around," she said.
With 37 years at Lake Surgery under her belt, Lyn is the longest standing staff member and says perhaps the best thing about her time at the practice is the many changes she's been fortunate to experience. "Lake Surgery has undergone significant growth over time. When I started there was just a small consulting room, a small treatment room and waiting room. Starting about 20 years ago, we've gradually taken over the whole first floor of Geddes Building in Tongariro Street," she said.
"I also recall the transition from hand-written notes to using the computer. We used to scribble notes and submit hand-written claims to the health department. The computer coming on board years ago was a huge learning curve but a wonderful one, making work-life a whole lot more efficient in the long run."
Another career highlight specific to her time at Lake Surgery has been her ability, following training, to do phlebotomy - or take bloods - along with most of her nurse colleagues. "It's uncommon for nurses to do this in a general practice environment and therefore quite unique to Lake Surgery. It means we don't need to refer patients to the laboratory. The convenience for patients is huge, especially considering our practice is quite a distance from the nearest laboratory.
"Taking blood is a very special part of my job - primarily because you get to know the patient better. Sometimes they open up and talk about other more personal things with you. It's very beneficial for creating good patient relationships."
No day is exactly the same for Lyn or her nursing colleagues. "I mean, each shift we have administration to do - fielding calls and following up blood tests. But beyond that we're busy doing blood tests; taking blood pressure and heart recordings; dressing wounds; undertaking cryotherapy - known as treatment of lesions; taking biopsies of skin tissue and sending to the lab for diagnosis - the works. There's huge variety in what we do," she said.
Lyn sums up her career nicely. "For decades now, it's been my passion to provide confident and safe care to patients to improve their health and wellbeing." She says patients respect confident care because they find reassurance in it. "That's what I'm here for," she said.
Stepping into retirement, she's looking forward to spending more time with family, many of whom live outside of Taupo. "I'll also have more time to catch up with long-standing friends that I've made over time working at the surgery - both patients and nurses. One of my best friends I worked with for 10 years - she retired a while ago. We have a lot of good memories together."
It's clear that although she's enthused about the years ahead, she'll miss her colleagues and her career greatly. "It's quite overwhelming when you've worked somewhere for so long. I recently said to one of the nurses - when I lose more of my marbles I might end up at the surgery in my uniform ready to work! It's been a wonderful career and 37 years at Lake Surgery."