Pioneer nurse helps Middlemore Hospital celebrate 70th birthday

Esme Green's legacy lives on at Middlemore Hospital, one of its buildings is named after her.
EMILY FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Esme Green's legacy lives on at Middlemore Hospital, one of its buildings is named after her.

 It's been 70 years since a young Esme Green decided she wanted to be a nurse.

The year was 1947 and the 20-year-old dressmaker was living in Otahuhu when a new south Auckland hospital opened its doors on May 3.

She told her parents her plan and within a few months she had become Middlemore Hospital's first trainee nurse, doing "all the work no-one else wanted to do".

Green was Middlemore Hospital's first trainee nurse 70 years ago.

Green was Middlemore Hospital's first trainee nurse 70 years ago.

Now 90-years-old, Green returned to the hospital in May to help it celebrate its 70th birthday and reminisce on her time there.

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"When I first came here 70 years ago it was so clean, with pink and beige coloured walls and a garden with lovely planted trees," Green says.

The nurses lived in a home at the back of the hospital and the doctors lived across the railway line and the groups would often go out dancing together.

"The nurse's home was my family . . . we had a tremendous amount of fun."

Green's legacy in her 14 years at the hospital is still felt today. The old nursing home is now called the Esme Green building and there's a nursing scholarship in her name.

Her husband Ken was a visitor of one of Green's patients when she first met him. They were married for more than 50 years, with Green taking 23 years off to raise their children.

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Director of nursing Denise Kivell says Green is very humble and wouldn't originally let the health board name the building after her.

"She only accepted it provided we would use it to acknowledge all the nurses that had gone before her." Kivell says.

Green is also a passionate advocate for compassionate care and always ensures that is demonstrated in nursing scholarship recipients, Kivell says.

You have to talk to patients and get to know their concerns, there's no use standing around their bedside, Green says.

Middlemore Hospital opened in 1947 to service the south Auckland area. It originally had 10 wards and the majority of patients were war veterans.

A clinical services building, national burn unit, innovative teaching centre Ko Awatea, and the separate Manukau SuperClinic are some of the developments over the past 70 years.

It's now one of the largest tertiary teaching hospitals in the country, admitting more than 91,000 in-patients and 354,000 day-patients a year, according to Healthpoint.

 - Stuff

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