Thursday, March 21, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Acknowledging A Nursing Legacy

Helen Alvers is most known in the Mackay community as a local hero in the nursing industry, with an impressive background of 48 years in the field.

Throughout her remarkable journey, she has been exposed to vast changes in regards to patient care and hospital technology.

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years…is her unwavering passion and advocacy towards caring for others.

Helen has spent a large portion of her career at Mackay Base Hospital, recently retiring after 17 years as the Nurse Unit Manager (NUM) in the Child and Adolescent Unit (CAU).

Helen started her training at Mackay Base Hospital in 1976 as a 20-year-old after she spent two years studying science at university in Townsville.

"It was three years on-the-job training, plus study and then an exam at the end to get a Certificate of Nursing to become a registered nurse," she said.

"It was the three-level old brick building facing Bridge Road with the old-fashioned long wards.

“The rooms were split into two with 10 beds to each room. There weren't many private rooms back then," she said.

Coincidently, she met her husband Dennis three years after beginning her training in 1979, whilst he painted the walls of the hospital ward.

She married Dennis in 1982, and had children in 1983 and 1985, but was forced to leave her job as there was no maternity leave offered back then.

While working casually as a midwife and in the women’s unit at the Base Hospital, Helen helped establish the Toy Library in Mackay and also spent countless hours volunteering as a disability services advocate alongside Dennis.

In the last 17 years, Helen served in various roles in the Child and Adolescent Unit as well as furthering her studies in paediatrics, oncology and leadership.

She led the ward as NUM through many challenges and changes including four moves for renovations and restorative work, the Covid pandemic, initial P Block discussions and additionally helped establish the outreach clinical nurse role.

“The biggest challenge has always been the change in technology in hospitals, particularly the digitising of records.

“There’s always a lot to learn but change is inevitable; it’s never easy but you have to adapt.

“But what makes it all worthwhile is seeing patients leave here, and they are well again.”

Reflecting on her journey, Helen said: "Patients really do appreciate what we do, but the reality is that part of being a nurse is it’s not always easy, especially when you are witnessing these kids facing such great health hurdles.

To celebrate Helen’s last day at Mackay Base Hospital, afternoon tea was provided by the ward, followed by an overwhelming bunch of gifts and beautiful flowers.

Friday, February 2 marked one last memorable moment of Helen’s nursing at Mackay Base Hospital.

Her last parting advice to nursing colleagues was to “spread their wings”.

By Mackay Hospital and Health Service

Helen Alvers celebrating her last day at Mackay Base Hospital. Photo credit: Mackay Hospital and Health Service

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