BENDIGO Health nurse Kerri Bourke has been acknowledged for her lifetime of achievements in the health sector, and becoming a nurse 50 years ago yesterday.
Ms Bourke started at Bendigo Health - which then fell under the Northern District School of Nursing - and completed her training while working on the hospital wards.
"I always wanted to be a nurse," Ms Bourke said.
The health practitioner said she had ambitions of becoming a nurse from the age of nine or 10.
Ms Bourke got exposure to a hospital through a program that allowed students to come into the hospital and hand out dinners to patients and learn a little bit about nursing.
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"It was a nice introduction into what it was like on the wards and to see how hospitals worked," she said.
She said that school program she did back in those days was ahead of its time.
Other than periods of 12 months and 18 months to care for her children, Ms Bourke said she had been employed by Bendigo Health throughout the last 50 years.
During her nursing career, Ms Bourke has worked in multiple areas such as the Emergency Department.
"I loved working in the Emergency Department," she said.
"[It's] much different today though."
She has also done aged care, medical nursing, and cancer nursing.
"I did the course in chemotherapy - for cancer nursing - and was fortunate enough to get a job in the cancer nursing field," Ms Bourke said.
"And I've been here ever since."
Ms Bourke has witnessed two local hospitals being built during her time and was even involved in the design of the cancer chemotherapy unit where she works.
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"[It] was just the greatest opportunity, and really loved being involved in that, and really proud of the hospital we have now," she said.
Ms Bourke said life as a nurse back in the day was very different.
"The hierarchy was very prevalent in those early days," she said.
"We had to stand up when someone senior came into the room, and the doctors had a partitioned off part to eat and things like that."
Ms Bourke was even a part of the school of nurses that got the union involved and threatened to resign if nurses who failed their exams weren't reinstated.
"They were reinstated, and had their exams done, and went on to become very good nurses as it turns out," she said
"One became the director of nurses."
Ms Bourke said at that time female nurses were paid less than men which they also fought.
The experienced nurse said while she faced many difficulties in her early nursing years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge of her career.
"All health professionals want to do is help people and it's difficult now. There's so many restrictions," Ms Bourke said.
Despite the hardships, Ms Bourke remains passionate and optimistic about her field.
"The good things in nursing outshine that," she said.
"And now I think the conditions now are so much better."
Ms Bourke said she had stayed in nursing so long because she had made a difference in people's lives which is rewarding in itself.
"They're so thankful for what you do and not many people get that in their job everyday," she said.
Ms Bourke's team is also another highlight of her work.
"Everybody looks out for everybody," she said.
"Thank you to everybody really that I've worked with."
Ms Bourke said to anyone thinking of becoming a nurse - "it's a great career."
"There are so many different ways you can go."
The cancer nurse said she bought a new and final pair of work shoes.
"When they wear out, I'm out," she said with certainty.
"They're looking a little bit worn.
"It still is a hard place to leave because as I say, you're rewarded every day."
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