St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital’s Director of Clinical Services Rosemarie ‘Rosie’ White retires this week after 33 years within the UnitingCare family. Since 1989 Rosie has worked across two Brisbane UnitingCare hospitals, making her mark wherever she went.
In 1989 Rosie was working as a nurse at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital when she applied for the new role of Nurse Manager Intensive Care at The Wesley Hospital.
“In those days, there was fierce rivalry between the two sites and people couldn’t understand how I could possibly switch hospitals to take the role but it was such a wonderful opportunity,” Rosie said.
“It was a new era in the technology of patient monitoring. We were able to continuously monitor a patient’s oxygen saturation and The Wesley was one of the first hospitals in the state to implement the technology.
“It was an exciting time in nursing and it completely changed how we cared for patients.
“At the time we didn’t understand the impact of oxygen levels on patient care, but this new equipment showed us data and it made us think and work differently to care for our fragile patients,” she said.
Rosie acknowledges that in health, 1989 seems a long time ago and what is standard practice now, was cutting edge and not even thought of at the time.
“While healthcare moves at a rapid rate, at the end of the day, it doesn’t ever replace good old- fashioned care and it’s important we don’t get caught up in tech,” Rosie said.
During Rosie’s time at The Wesley, she managed the intensive care unit, was the resus educator, and managed a coronary care unit and commissioned an open heart service. In 2001 she became an Assistant Director of Nursing – Procedural and then Clinical.
In 2010, Rosie was asked to act as the Director of Nursing at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital.
“After six months, I got to know the staff and doctors and realised that they were a great team.
“St Andrew’s captures you. It has a great culture and community and that was appealing to me,” Rosie said.
For Rosie the highlights of her time at St Andrew’s are many.
“I’m proud of the nursing leadership team – they are a collegiate group with excellent standards of care and strong patient engagement,” Rosie said.
“We won the 2014 Australian Success Story Award from international health sector research group Press Ganey.
“It was a prestigious award which highlighted how important grass roots clinical care to improve patient outcomes.
The award recognised the Living Values program which was implemented in 2011. It included the use of in-patient surveys to measure satisfaction with hospital services including pre-admission processes, cleanliness, food quality, nursing care and staff communication.
“On the world stage, we were acknowledged as a small Australian hospital punching above their weight.
“It showed that by looking after the little things, the big things will follow,” she said.
Rosie was also involved in developing and expanding the cardiac program at St Andrew’s and has been excited to watch it grow.
“I will miss my colleagues – the camaraderie and friendships I have made during my career have been so important,” Rosie said.
One of Rosie’s greatest challenges during her time at UnitingCare has a positive flip side. The COVID-19 pandemic was one of those times.
“The biggest challenge for health initially was the unknown and lack of understanding of where we’d end up,” Rosie said.
“We were receiving very confronting reports from overseas about the number of patients that were being admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.”
“It required us to stop and rethink. Staff, patient safety, supply management, PPE, staff training – what was our internal process and management of patients going to look like?” she said.
Rosie said it was not a single person job – it was an entire staff effort.
“We had excellent communication and talked every day but it did take its toll on people as it was pretty challenging,” Rosie said.
“As an organisation, I think it made us stronger, we pulled together and realised we work great as a team.
“The greatest challenges often force us to think outside of the box which helps us come up with some pretty unique solutions – which we did,” she said.
In a final reflection, Rosie is grateful for the opportunities she has been given and how the future looks pretty bright.
“Nursing has been a wonderful career for me and I achieved so much around raising my two boys as well,” Rosie said.
“With nursing you can go anywhere – literally – I’ve travelled locally and internationally and I’ve been afforded many fantastic opportunities.
“I’m so happy to see such clever and motivated nurses emerging and I think that the future of nursing is in good hands,” she said.