Susan Aileen Heather (nee Male) started her career 55 years ago, joining the then hospital-based nursing training at the age of 17 at Sutherland Hospital on the beachy outskirts of Sydney, Australia.
Excelling in her studies and achieving second in the State in her final exams, she graduated in February 1968 and was readily accepted to rural placement at Orange Base Hospital for her first year as a professional nurse. Experiencing everything from emergency room to general ward care and theatre, she returned to Sydney a year later already an accomplished nurse.
After several months back in Sydney, her wanderlust started whispering and she and her dear friend, Diane, decided to pack their capes and head north. She moved to British Columbia, Canada and began work with St Bartholomew’s Hospital on an indigenous reservation where she worked with the children of the area and earned the princely sum of CA$172.17 per month (it was lucky that room and board was included!). After a year here, Susan and Diane decided to head east and both obtained positions in Ottawa with Susan caring for the other end of life, geriatrics. Her experience in Canada made a lifelong impact and she often talks of those challenging but incredibly rewarding times.
But it wasn’t time to head home yet! Having been touched by the rewards of international travel and care, she moved to London was quickly snapped up as a live-in nanny. Located in Bayswater, she enjoyed living within a family environment and holds dear her memories of the couple she worked for and the children she cared for. After approximately three years overseas, it was time to go home and lay down roots. She returned to her home area of the Sutherland Shire and was gleefully accepted back into the ranks at Sutherland Hospital where she specialised in ECG recording.
At the age of 30 she decided to become a midwife. Again thriving in her studies, she achieved a distinction and graduated with the class of 1977. She entered the profession in her new hometown of the Blue Mountains where she moved with her new husband, Ian. Working in hospitals in the Katoomba, Springwood and Penrith areas, she excelled in labor and delivery, often being called in at night to lend her specialist hand to welcome new life into the world.
After many years she decided to return to nursing work and obtained a position in a neurology floor, for which she completely further study and certification. In her later years of nursing with the hopes of having a more consistent lifestyle to accommodate time with two children and a dog, she was offered a role in the day surgery department at Nepean Hospital in Western Sydney. She stayed there for 18 years and this became her most beloved job not only for the work content but the team with whom she worked – who lovingly named her the ‘Queen of Cannulation’.
Susan retired from nursing at the age of 67, after 50 years of nursing, and while she misses the work dearly, she is now free to focus her attention on volunteering in the local community, her beloved world travel and enjoying her two grandchildren.
She is an inspiring woman who lead her professional career with such grace and passion that she even inspired her daughter to become a registered nurse and carry on her legacy.