CUTTING CREW: Norma West joins a nurse scrubbed up to assist a surgeon in the museum’s operating theatre.
CUTTING CREW: Norma West joins a nurse scrubbed up to assist a surgeon in the museum’s operating theatre. Allan Reinikka AR--

Country practice on show

FOR Norma West, memories of her earliest days in nursing are always fresh.

And if she needs to jog those memories at any time, she knows exactly where to go.

Norma is the president of the award-winning Australian Country Hospital Heritage Association's museum at Rockhampton Heritage Village.

Last night the association's dedicated volunteers received a special commendation for outstanding achievement in the Queensland Museum and Gallery Awards, reflecting their efforts in establishing the museum as one of the finest in the country.

And Norma, who was director of nursing at Rockhampton Base Hospital for 30 years, is full of praise for volunteers who helped create such an accurate representation of the country hospitals that treated Central Queensland patients for 100 years.

The museum has only been open for a couple of months, but it was painstakingly put together over many years using donated exhibits housed in the old Mount Morgan Hospital nurses' quarters building.

“The building was in use until six or seven years ago and, although it was in need of some tender loving care, it was in a robust condition,” she said yesterday.

The prize exhibit is a 1938 iron lung, one of a number used to treat hundreds of polio victims and other patients with respiratory problems in Rockhampton over the decades.

But the lung is only one of thousands of items – from beds and primitive x-ray equipment to surgical instruments and nurses' uniforms – that adorn 16 displays.

“It covers a lengthy period, but this is what it was like when I started as a matron,” Norma said.

“It's hard to imagine now that so many lives were saved back then when you look at some of the equipment the staff had to work with.

“There was much less reliance on technology.”

The displays include a pharmacy, a doctor's office from the early 20th century, a nurse's bedroom from the 1940s, a children's ward, a 1940s dental surgery and a pan room where junior nurses scrubbed and sterilised pans and dishes and washed stained linen.

Judges praised the association for using best practice at every stage of the project, and volunteers for their tireless efforts.

The museum is one of a host of historic buildings at the Heritage Village.



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