On Saturday morning a group of six nurses found themselves back on Hospital Hill, where they began their careers exactly 50 years ago. Shannon Johnstone reports.
Phyllis Patrick reckons she could still sneak out the window at Hinepare nurses' home in Napier.
She lived there in more agile days as part of the 1970 class of 22 women, the last to train at Napier Hospital.
Phyllis, Barb Dooney, Chris James, Vivienne Asher-Guthrie, Maureen Ager and Maureen Breed started their longtime nursing careers, and their longtime friendships, inside these windows on January 25, 1970.
As their reunion on Saturday showed, it was the days of their lives.
Aged between 16 and 18, the women came from all around the North Island to become nurses in Napier.
As the women look up at the old nurses' home they reminisce about sunbathing on the roof and sneaking out of the windows.
"I wouldn't be able to get in and out of those windows anymore," Barb said.
"I'd give it a go," Phyllis said, inducing an abundance of laughter from the other five women.
The women talk fondly about the sense of community having to live in the nurses' home for 18 months brought.
"One thing about having to live in the nurses' home was that you became a family.
"Napier Hospital was a family because everybody knew everybody else, even the doctors," Phyllis said.
"All the nursing was fun because you could come home and vent to people who are going through the same thing," Phyllis said.
"We had our support network, the girls in our class, always around us," Maureen Ager said.
Napier Hospital was a significant place for these women and when it shut down in 1998 they described it as "shattering, shocking and terrible".
Vivienne decided once Napier shut, she would go overseas and spent the next 18 years abroad before recently returning to do casual nursing work in Havelock North.
In 1970 Napier Hospital was run by a small team comprised of a medical superintendent, a matron and an accountant and a couple of deputy medical staff, the women said.
Doctors helped teach the nurses, offering them training on the go.
"It was a lot more hands-on with nurses than it is today," Phyllis said.
Their training consisted of one day a week in a classroom and five days learning on the job in the wards.
The three and a half years of training included obstetric nursing training where the nurses also practised in two stints at McHardy Maternity home.
Two of the nurses became midwives later in their careers.
"It was the best training ever," Barb said.
The training was full-on as the women were thrown into various wards by themselves after six months of training.
"A baptism by fire," as Vivienne described it.
Nursing practice and patient care have changed a lot throughout their careers, the women said.
Technology, computerised documentation, equipment and changes in medication have meant nursing is a career where they have been continuously learning.
Chris said the need to "always be learning" is part of what has kept her in the job for so long.
Maureen Breed agreed, saying the "ever-changing" nature of nursing has kept her interested and nurses' knowledge requirements have expanded hugely to match the advancement in treatment.
Having worked in Hospice nursing, she feels that "palliative care has progressed in huge leaps and bounds" since her early days.
Barb said there is now a lot of preventative care which takes place in nursing.
"Patient suffering is so much less now," she said.
Becoming nurses has been an important part of the women's identities.
"Even though some of us have retired people still identify us as a nurse," Vivienne said.
Their lengthy careers have touched people's lives throughout New Zealand and internationally.
While nursing was one of the only choices available to the women after they left school, it is the passion for the industry and the people which has kept them in the profession.
Maureen Ager doesn't just describe nursing as a career but said there is an "art of nursing".
Barb said a highlight of her career has been delivering the babies of someone she had delivered when they were a baby.
"I used to be a Plunket nurse and people still remember me from those days even though their babies might be in their 20s or 30s now," Maureen Ager said.
The women aim to meet-up and reminisce every six to eight weeks.
Their class was originally made up of 22 women, some of which they have lost contact with over time.
Barb has provided her email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask anyone else who may have been in their class to get in contact.