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Manu Austin: 48 years of achievement.

When Manu Austin decided she was going to retire at the end of September this year (2015) after 48 years in nursing, the staff at Belverdale Hospital in Wanganui thought it would be a great idea to celebrate her career and achievements.

Manu was born in Samoa, the eldest in a family of 13. Her father was a GP/Anaesthetist and her mother was a Theatre Nurse. Manu always aspired to be a nurse. Her mother taught her handling of instruments. She would often help with circumcisions in the villages or help by holding the torch for her father as he sutured in the dark.

Manu set herself three goals. She wanted to be a New Zealand Registered Nurse (NZRN), then to hold a position as a "Sister," and to be a Theatre Nurse.

When she was 20, she decided to move to New Zealand to train as a nurse as Samoan Registration was not accepted in New Zealand. So she left Samoa with a group of scholarship students travelling to New Zealand to various training institutions and vocations. Manu chose Wanganui as she had an uncle and family already residing there.

Manu graduated in February 1971 from the Wanganui Hospital School of Nursing and worked for eight months in the wards before moving to the Operating Theatre.

In 1972 she completed a six month post-graduate theatre course at Wellington Hospital and worked an extra two months in Wellington before going to Samoa to work as a Theatre Manager for three months. While there she married a Wanganui man and they returned to Wanganui.

While her two boys were young, Manu worked weekends in aged care, but continued from time to time to assist surgeons at the private surgical hospital during the week.

Manu returned to working at the Wanganui Hospital Operating Theatres and worked there until 2001 when she moved to Belverdale Private Hospital Operating Theatre where she has remained until her retirement.

Manu is a foundation member of the original New Zealand Operating Theatre Nurses Special Interest Section of the New Zealand Nurses Association which was formed in 1973 and has since become the Perioperative Nurses College of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation.

She has been a member of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) all her working life and also is a member of the Sterile Services Association, having graduated from the eight month Sterilisation Technicians Course in 2000.

She has always held an interest in Sterile Services and felt doing this course would be beneficial to her practice.

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Over her years working in operating theatres, Manu has been an educator, preceptor, mentor and nurturer of students, new staff, existing staff, orderlies and ancillary staff. She has had the pleasure of seeing novices become competent theatre nurses under her training and watchful eye.

"When these nurses start telling me, equivalent to their grandmother, 'to suck eggs', then I know they are more than ready to make excellent Theatre Nurses," Manu recently reflected.

"This has always given me great pleasure and I can reassure myself that I must have done a good job."

Changes/memorable events

Not surprisingly for someone who has been involved in operating theatre nursing almost all her working life, Manu Austin has seen a great deal of change.

Here are some of the highlights:

* Up until the early to mid-1980s there were separate tearooms within Wanganui Hospital operating theatres. The Registered Nurses and doctors were in one and the enrolled nurses, orderlies and ancillary staff in another.

* Every Tuesday at lunchtime, an Orthopaedic Surgeon had a separate lunch with the Anaesthetist, Registrar and Theatre Manager, all served with finest of dinnerware and cutlery.

* Every week we made scones in the hot air oven steriliser.

* Anyone leaving the staff got a dunking in the scrub basin and a trip down the rubbish shute in a linen bag. Health and Safety would have a field day with that these days! All good fun.

* Another fun time: Manu and three other nurses were in minor theatre "decorating" it for a colleague who was going on maternity leave. They were creating quite a lot of noise and unfortunately the Matron happened to walk by. Manu slammed the door in her face but the Matron asked the Theatre Supervisor what was going on. That was the end of that kind of leaving ritual.

* At one time Manu was in hospital on bed rest from Tuesday to Sunday. She was discharged on Monday and the Theatre Manager pleaded with her to scrub for a tonsil list as no one else was available. "I stupidly agreed. Those were the days!" Manu reflects.

* In her early years she recalls that suture needles were re-used. They were washed, barbs and rust filed off, then anti-rust and anti-bacterial solution was poured over them. This was a weekly job.

* The advent of Laparoscopic and Arthroscopic Surgery has been a big change from the predominantly open surgery of the past. The use of camera technology has greatly advanced, from the surgeon eyeballing through the telescopes to today when everyone can see the operative procedure on the screen in high definition.

* Disposable drapes were a huge change. Manu says she was used to linen drapes for many years. The linen was laundered and a large part of theatre work was repacking the linen to be steriiised.

* Theatre work has become more specialised over the years. Anaesthetics and recovery were formerly a normal part of the Theatre Registered Nurses role.

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The 20 year old girl who left Samoa in the late 1960s has achieved the goals she set for herself and became the proud NZRN, the accomplished Theatre Nurse and the "Sister".

We all wish Manu the very best in her retirement. "Tofa Mai Feleni"
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:profile
Author:Young, Jane
Publication:The Dissector: Journal of the Perioperative Nurses College of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Sep 1, 2015
Words:963
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