Our club President for the year 2019-2020,  Bev McIlroy, has been a registered nurse for 55 years but she’s never worked through a pandemic like COVID-19.  Here's a bit about her journey at our local health service.

Portland District Health’s (PDH) assistant director of nursing and after-hours coordinator is relishing the challenge and says it has strengthened her belief in the importance of health workers.

“I’m glad I’m working when this once-in-a-lifetime event happened,” she said. “You can see all the changes that are going to happen as a result of this virus and from a healthcare perspective there will be some good positive changes.”

Ms McIlroy has been impressed with how PDH and health authorities across Australia have responded to the virus.



“I think we are managing it as well as anyone could have imagined,” she said. “At PDH we are reviewing it on a daily basis and we’re providing community support and now community testing.

“We are offering the community all the support that we can in this environment.”

Ms McIlroy was speaking before International Nurses Day on May 12, which this year celebrates 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale whose work in the Crimean war, where she highlighted the importance of hygiene, and in particular hand washing, remains the cornerstone of reducing mortality and spread of infections such as coronavirus.

This year has been designated the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife by the World Health Organisation.

“There’s a little bit of Florence in every one of us,” Ms McIlroy said. “If you read her story, her attributes are in most nurses. Nurses facilitate and contribute to change. Without nurses being proactive, innovative and working as team members, you don’t get new ideas and change.”

She hopes the pandemic will result in lasting respect for nurses and other first responders.

After 55 years in the profession, Ms McIlroy shows no sign of slowing down.

“I love every minute of it,” she said. “You can see you’re making a difference; it’s there in front of you.”

“I always wanted to be a nurse; that’s all my mother thought I was going to be and I never had anything else in my mind.”
She still enjoys the comradery and good feelings that come with helping people.

“I’ve been fortunate in my whole career to be the recipient of excellent training,” she said.

Ms McIlroy started at Western District Health Service in Hamilton under the guidance of educator Faye Gumley.
“Anyone trained by Faye would say we were so lucky. Even though she was only a few years older, she embodied education for nurses. She taught me it’s not just about basic nursing skills but lateral thinking. You learn how to think outside the square and recognise that there’s always an alternative.”

Ms McIlroy also worked in midwifery in a Catholic hospital before joining PDH in 1971 where she has worked in several areas, including midwifery, drug and alcohol, palliative care and coordinating night shifts.

Most changes during her 55-year career have led to improvements.

“The introduction of tertiary training in the 1970s took us a long time to come to terms with, but now I can see the amazing value it added with the knowledge and skills of today’s nursing graduates,” Ms McIlroy said.

However, there’s still a need for “a bit of old school advice”, which has been an important part of her job for the past 25 years.

“I have great respect for the nursing profession and how it has adapted to change over time. We used to have GPs on call 24 hours; today it’s very much team work between the doctors and nursing staff and allied specialists.”

Ms McIlroy is proud of the healthcare provided by PDH. “We’re very proud of the health care we provide in our area; palliative care, chemotherapy, post-acute care, and dialysis have been introduced over the past 20 years to support the healthcare system. A lot of new things available for the patient makes a very busy health service.”

Ms McIlroy has no plans to retire. “I’ll work for as long as it’s appropriate. I’ll have people tell me when it’s not and most importantly I can tell myself.

“PDH, especially in the past 10 years, has become extremely relevant and held in high regard in the community and I still enjoy working here.”

(Thank-you to PDH for allowing us to share this story).