NURSING STALWART: Rod Hutcheon, executive director Rural Health Services CQHHS, presents Rhylla with a certificate honouring 30 years of unbroken service with CQHHS.
NURSING STALWART: Rod Hutcheon, executive director Rural Health Services CQHHS, presents Rhylla with a certificate honouring 30 years of unbroken service with CQHHS. Contributed

Nurse Rhylla will be missed by Capricorn Coast staff

CAPRICORN Coast Hospital and Health Service has farewelled its beloved director of nursing and facility manager Rhylla Webb as she heads off on long service leave before retiring.

Ms Webb started her nursing training at St John's Hospital in Rockhampton in 1962.

"It's been a wonderful road, and I've enjoyed every minute of it," she said of her 53-year career.

Rhylla has worked in many roles, including midwife, nurse educator and manager; in acute and community health and in many CQ sites including Woorabinda, Emerald, Rockhampton, Gladstone and finally Yeppoon, where she's been director of nursing for 10 years.

She's very glad to say that life as a nurse today is a lot different to what it was back in the 1960s.

"I won't ever say they were the 'good old days'," Rhylla said. "We've come a long, long way."

Rhylla's first uniform was a pink-striped dress with elbow-length sleeves, a long white apron that wrapped right around (and had to be replaced should it be splashed), black stockings and shoes and a mop cap that totally covered the hair pulled back with a stiff band in front.

There was no air-conditioning in those days.

She did four years of nursing training, with exams every year that had to be passed.

"In the final year we got to wear a butterfly veil once we passed our exams before graduating to the full veil.

"It was hard work physically because we had to do everything, including washing the patients' linen.

"I remember in my first year of marriage my husband Bill came to pick me up from the laundry at the back of the Lady Goodwin Maternity (in Rockhampton) after my shift at 3.30pm and I told him I wasn't finished yet," she said. "I had to wash the linen.

"I'd assisted with the births of seven women in my eight-hour shift that day.

"He came back at 5 and I still wasn't ready, then he came back at 7pm and I was still washing linen, but he brought a toasted sandwich for me, and he didn't mind," she said.

There was no such thing as overtime in those days; nurses had to stay back until the work was done. If they went home and had forgotten something they were called back in to complete it.

She remembers patient mosquito nets as the bane of her existence.

"They had to be pulled back into precise pleats every morning, all a certain distance from the floor and if they weren't done exactly right you had to do it again."

Rhylla recalls when the first broad spectrum antibiotic came to Rockhampton; it was such an important development the doctor went to the airport personally to take delivery.

"Nurses didn't put in cannulas back then; only doctors did because they were few and far between," Rhylla said.

She's also glad nurses no longer need to sharpen the intramuscular and intravenous needles and boil them for sterilisation and re-use.

"It was a very different world," she said.

Yeppoon community groups held a farewell function for Rhylla last week to thank her for her contribution to the community and dedication to its health and well-being.

The hospital hosted a lunch last Thursday with plenty of staff wanting to thank Rhylla and wish her well for her retirement.

She was recognised as a stalwart and an icon of the nursing profession, also a great manager, who believed in team work and was a master at inspiring and getting the best out of people.

Rhylla is a mentor and role model across the district and further afield, and her advice and counsel is respected and sought.