Gloria Burley

Gloria Burley served as a nurse on various wards and during surgical procedures at hospitals in major cities as well as rural Outback centres such as Darwin and Katherine, NT. She was herself a cancer patient who encountered and survived hospital treatment for a life-threatening condition. She lives and works in Far North Queensland (Airlie Beach), Australia.


Kimberly Chandler's interview with Gloria Burley


During our three-year training, we studied for several weeks and then went out on the wards to put the theory into practice. We usually rotated through the wards every two months. However, because of usual shortage of nurses, this meant that some of us were working in wards with no idea of the theory, as we had not yet studied it. A lot of us just ‘muddled through’ and hoped for the best.

There was always a supervisor around for support along with sisters or registered nurses who would offer advice and assistance.

One day during morning tea, my supervising sister asked me to accompany her. I put down my coffee and muffin and followed her to a private room from which came the foulest stench. Lying on the bed, naked, was an elderly woman. A river of shit flowed from underneath her and down the bed. It was mixed with blood. So much for morning tea, I thought with dismay. This was going to take ages to clean up.

“This is malena,” said the sister. “This is what it looks like and this is what it smells like. Remember that for future reference. Now off you go, back to the tea room.”

My relief was so great that I could have kissed her.

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