Hospital history recalled in early graduate’s gift
One of the ﬁrst graduates of Hawke’s Bay Hospital’s now-defunct nurses’ training school returned to her old stamping ground bearing a gift last week.
Last Wednesday during Chaplaincy Week, 92-year-old Elsie Leipst presented nursing director David Warrington and hospital chaplain Reverend Barbara Walker with an old framed newspaper article to be kept in the hospital’s archives.
The 1989 article focused on the Fifty year reunion of Ms Leipst and four other women who were among the ﬁrst intake of trainees at the school back in 1939 and later became the ﬁrst graduates.
“I have to give credit to the doctors and our teachers at the time – we all passed our exams with honours,” said Ms Leipst, who was nineteen when she started the three and a half years of training.
Elsie said originally there were 15 women enrolled in that ﬁrst training group.
However, given the low wages paid to the trainees, half of the group left early once they discovered they could earn more just by being a nurses’ aide, Ms Leipst said.
After graduating from her nursing training, Ms Leipst went on to study midwifery and complete her Plunket qualiﬁcations over a 40-year career.
She did a number of stints at the hospital in Hastings, then known as the Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, worked in Britain, and did humanitarian work with Save The Children in Korea.
She was working as clinical nursing director [supervisor] when she retired from the Hastings hospital in 1974.
“I left the hospital when they took the nurses training over to that place, EIT. I didn’t approve of that,” said Elsie who stopped working in 1978 after a ﬁnal four years as a Plunket nurse.
But time heals all wounds. Ms Leipst joked she had donated the framed article to the hospital archives not because she was “at an age where l am trying to get rid of everything”.
“It’s because this place is so special to me,” she said.
In the 1989 article, Ms Leipst recounted an experience where as a trainee she had a corpse in one hospital room and a man on a bedpan in another, when an earthquake struck.
“A nurse told me to stop worrying about the corpse and attend to the patient on the bedpan,” Ms Leipst said.
Photo caption – Early graduate: Former nurse Elsie Leipst, one of the ﬁrst graduates of the old nurses’ training school at Hawke’s Bay’s regional hospital, with her gift to nursing director David Warrington and hospital chaplain Reverend Barbara Walker.