Nurse Unit Manager Noeline Rozanc (Source: Michelle Goodman 2018)

Nurse Unit Manager Noeline Rozanc‘s experience at Westmead Hospital in 1980’s as a trainee nurse. Interview was recorded in 2018.


My name is Noeline Rozanc and I’ve been working at Westmead Hospital as a nurse, commencing my training here on the 3rd March 1980. I first came to Westmead in 1979 when I was a Year 12 student at a High School in Bathurst. I’d never heard of Westmead, I had to look it up in the street directory. Came here for my interview in 1979 and was really quite surprised to see this building.

It was a huge brick and concrete monolith. When I walked into the main entrance, it wasn’t like walking into a hospital at all, it was like walking into an airport terminal. It was carpeted and had this huge woollen wall hanging. There was a bank in there, there was a coffee shop. It was a place that was really quite not what I had expected. I had my nursing interview and I was successful in my application to be a student nurse at Westmead and started here in March 1980, and had a variety of different jobs in nursing, mostly at this hospital. So as a girl from the country coming to Westmead in 1980 for my training, I needed somewhere to stay and the hospital accommodation complex which is a couple of hundred metres up the road wasn’t completed, so a number of us were allocated to stay in the old prefab Maternity building at the old Parramatta hospital which was a shared bathroom, shared kitchen and your own bedroom with a metal bed, metal beside table, metal cupboards and we walked over to Westmead Hospital through Parramatta Park every day for the first three months of our training because for the first three months we had lectures here in the Education block at the hospital.

So as a person from the country that had lived out on a farm, all of a sudden being in Parramatta was a really exciting thing. There was a pub across the road from where we stayed, so a lot of the nurses used to go and sample the wares there but we could also go to the local shopping centre, which was Westfield shopping centre and Parramatta Leagues Club as a place to go out and some of the different taverns so a lot of us from the country really enjoyed the night life. We had some rules in relation to the nurses’ accommodation where we were staying. You had to be in by midnight, there was a curfew but of course there were always ways around the curfew of sneaking in or unlocking the door.

So Parramatta was quite a different place back in the eighties, this is in the days when we had telephone boxes, no mobile phones. There was no such thing as an ATM so if you didn’t go to the bank and get your money out on the Friday, you had no money to go out during the weekend. But it was also a place that for me it was so easy to get to other places. (You know) I could walk down to the railway station and catch a train into the city, so I enjoyed Parramatta, I enjoyed wandering around Parramatta. Then after our first three months at the hospital, the accommodation complex was finished and so the group of 30 of us that was staying in the nurses’ home or the maternity unit at Parramatta Hospital were able to move into the accommodation here at Westmead. And it was unit style accommodation which was very different from the nurses’ home at any of the other hospitals.

So what we had here at Westmead was a four bedroom unit, each with your own bedroom, two bathrooms, a washing machine and a dryer, and a kitchen and a furnished lounge area. So that was fairly luxurious and quite different to other nurses. Westmead Hospital itself was very new and very modern and state of the art and we had a lot of equipment here at this hospital and a lot of services that weren’t available at the other older hospitals. The clinical exposure we had at Westmead was fantastic – it was a hospital that was new, it was exciting. We had a lot of very junior registered nurses and we were one of the first hospitals where we had students training that didn’t wear a veil. The registered nurses didn’t wear a veil, but the student nurses did wear a cap and I actually liked that. It didn’t matter, there was no such thing as a bad hair day, because it was all covered under your hat.

We all rotated through different clinical wards and so we had experience in a variety of areas. We had intensive care areas, we had surgical areas, medical areas, and we had oncology wards so I enjoyed all of my rotations. There was always things to learn in every different area. Back in those days we were really quite strict with how we referred to other registered nurses. We never called registered nurses by their first name and we didn’t refer to them “Sister”, that was a little bit different in that time as well. We would call them “Mr” or “Mrs” or “Miss”, so as a student nurse I never ever called a registered nurse by their first name.

So Westmead hospital has changed a lot over the years. When I first came here it wasn’t like walking into a hospital at all. It didn’t look like a hospital, it didn’t smell like a hospital. The wards were very bright and very modern with lots of different colours that at the time we thought that was just amazing. As a nurse at Westmead hospital in the eighties I’ve had a lot experiences and opportunities that I may not have had in another hospital due to my age. I was quite a young Nursing Unit Manager, but we also had a lot of structure and processes around our …… and procedures and policies that guided us in what to do.

Neera Sahni, Research Services Leader, Parramatta Heritage Centre, City of Parramatta, 2020