60 years of caring

Publish date: 16 May 2024

Sue Harris had always felt a calling to care.  Now she has clocked up 60 years in the industry.

From the moment she donned her nurse's cap for training at Fremantle Hospital in 1965, she knew she was embarking on a lifelong journey of service. Trained during a pivotal time in nursing history, Sue absorbed everything she could during her time at Fremantle, from the practical skills to the empathy that defines a great nurse.

In 1968, Sue transitioned to be a staff nurse at Fremantle Hospital. Her dedication to the profession never wavered, even when she took breaks to welcome two babies.

For Sue, nursing wasn't just a job; it was woven into the very fabric of her being. She returned to it time and time again, from her days as a school nurse when her own children were young to her time as a community health nurse in multicultural neighbourhoods like Thornlie, and Coolbellup.

Her expertise and passion caught the eye of her superiors, leading her to spearhead ambitious projects like the Statewide HEP B program for children.

“This was an incredibly satisfying job,” said Sue.  “We vaccinated all First Nations people between 0 and 19 within five months through their network of community health nurses, which was a fantastic achievement.”

As with all Sue did, she enthusiastically ran for Council in the City of Gosnells and held a seat for nine years.  She championed causes close to her heart, particularly around health and aged care, with the establishment of an aged care hostel (which later became a nursing home) and the creation of a women's refuge in Gosnells.

She later reflected that her experiences in local government were as valuable as any degree. They honed her skills in budgeting, strategic planning, and negotiation, and complemented her nursing expertise in ways she never imagined.

“I went back to Uni to get my formal degree as a Registered Nurse, and realised I had so many of the skills already,” said Sue. 

“Courses just formalised my approach in using them, but I was glad to have had the practical background to add to my clinical skills.”

A final hospital stint in management at Hollywood Hospital led to a transition to aged care as a regional manager at Brightwater.

“I was there for six years and I loved every day at work,” Sue said. 

“I witnessed first-hand the difference between what the old and new models were. 

“The stark change between the huge, old, out-dated wards and shared bathrooms, to the modern, dignified living spaces with private rooms was incredible.

“People had privacy and their dignity was respected; I fell in love with Aged Care then.”

Sue retired – the first time – at 55 and started a farming venture with her husband.  With some bad advice, they nearly lost the business and she returned to nursing.

“I was no longer registered as a Registered Nurse, but I had all the organisational and clinical skills to manage accreditations, and to be a Facility Manager (FM).”

Now, as Bethanie Kinglsey’s FM since October 2020 Sue continues to make a difference every day. Her pragmatic approach with a good dose of empathy, endears her to residents and staff alike. She leads by example, fostering a culture of teamwork and accountability that ensures quality care.

“Nursing has been very good to me,” adds Sue.  “I can see the difference I’m making; the difference we are all making.”

“I am driven by a sense of fairness, justice and righteousness.”

Having described herself as a ‘paper nurse’ since being off the tools, Sue isn’t even considering her second retirement at the moment. 

“This is what I love and I’ll keep doing it until I just can’t anymore.”

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