Oncology nurse celebrates 50 years in profession

Wednesday, August 03, 2022
Oncology nurse celebrates 50 years in profession Bendigo Health's Kerri Bourke has spent five decades working as a nurse.
Marking an incredible milestone, oncology nurse Kerri Bourke last week was congratulated for having worked 50 years in the profession.

Kerri always wanted to be a nurse, apart for a short time when she wanted to be a nun. It was lucky for us and the community she held fast to her dream ignited by Sister Ferguson’s short course on nursing for teenagers which included wheeling the supper trolley around to patients.

After attending at age 15 Kerri decided this was the career for her and two years later was employed by the Bendigo Hospital.

The next step was six weeks training at the Northing District School of Nursing as well as three years training in different areas of the hospital. Following this, Kerri worked in the emergency department until her first child was born in 1977.

“You had to resign back then when you had children,” she said. “And as a female we weren’t paid as much as the males because they were the breadwinners.”

The desire for change saw Kerri join a group of Bendigo nurses who travelled to Melbourne for the Royal Australian Nursing Federation strike in 1986.

“I was getting on the bus and the Director of Nursing pulled me aside and said I was responsible for all the people on the bus… so I was packing myself,” she laughed.

There were also tales of nurses climbing in through the window of their accommodation because they’d stayed out past curfew, and sneaking to the nearby pub.

“Once the matron caught me eating an apricot on the wards and I had to write a 2000 word essay on infectious nursing, which I did go and write at the Rising Sun Hotel,” Kerri said.

When reminiscing, highlights for this dedicated nurse included seeing the new hospital built as well as the construction of the Hyett Block which was opened in 1975.

“This one was most exciting,” she said. “I was more involved in the cancer centre design and we attended the meetings discussing what we wanted and what would work.

“The growth in nursing has also been fantastic. I’m so thrilled to see young nurses come in and their career can take them anywhere.”

As to when Kerri will retire? “This is the last pair of shoes I’ll buy for work,” she said. No doubt her colleagues will be sneaking in some repairs for as long as they can.