Retiring nurse leaving behind extensive rehab legacy

Oamaru nurse Judy McKinley stands in the rehabilitation room, a programme she helped to develop,...
Oamaru nurse Judy McKinley stands in the rehabilitation room, a programme she helped to develop, at Oamaru Hospital, on her last day as a nurse after 53 years. PHOTO: JULES CHIN
A dedicated and innovative nurse, who helped build and support education programmes at Oamaru Hospital, walked the wards for the last time on Friday. 

Judy McKinley, who has been a nurse for over half a century, has worked at Oamaru Hospital for the past 36 years.

She leaves behind an extensive legacy, having developed and run rehabilitation and respiration education programmes as well as being a longtime supporter and member of the local asthma group.

Waitaki District Health Services chief executive Keith Marshall said Mrs McKinley had "an amazing wealth of experience" and a "huge heart for her patients and her community".

Her time at the hospital dated back to when it was the "hospital on the hill", he said.

"She has seen it all."

Mrs McKinley started her nurse training at Dunstan Hospital, in Clyde, in 1970.

She had wanted to be a teacher, but had many family members, including her mother and aunties, who were nurses. Soon after her training "she knew" she wanted to be a nurse, Mr Marshall said.

Married in 1972, she had three children and moved to Oamaru in 1987. She started on a relief nursing contract that was meant to be for 12 months, and never left.

Although she was ready to have some "me time", she would miss the relationships, Mrs McKinley said.

"I love the relationships that you actually form."

She was looking forward to more tramping and outdoor time and was "keen to try" golf, having been given golf clubs by a nursing colleague.

There would also be "lots of flights to Sydney" to see her two grandchildren.

"It’s exciting. I am looking forward to it and it is the right time. I can’t say how grateful I am to have a career as a nurse."

During the past half-century, she had seen "many highs and some lows" and a lot of restructuring.

The old hospital "on the hill" had two geriatric wards; an acute, medical and surgical ward; plus a theatre and outpatients unit.

The nurses at the time were rotated through the wards.

She was lucky most of her time was spent in the medical ward, where she worked under an "amazing" charge nurse called Alison Partridge.

"That also has helped my background as far as rehab goes."

Over the past five years, she had worked, with support from nursing director Evie Thomas, to set up and run a rehabilitation programme for surgery and stroke patients.

"We’ve seen some amazing recovery with people here in this community," she said.

She believed being a nurse was "all about doing the best for your patients".

She had also enjoyed being a part of the social side of the patients’ rehabilitation.

"It’s important to enjoy your patients. We do have some great fun."

Until 12 years ago, she ran a breakfast club for six rehabilitation patients.

Today, it was harder to get funding for these types of groups.