Agent of change in the operating theatre

AUDREY MORWICK NURSE 1-5-1928 27-5-2012



1-5-1928 27-5-2012


AUDREY Morwick, who made her mark as a caring and selfless operating room nurse and teacher, died in Box Hill Hospital after a stroke. She was 84.

After gaining two significant qualifications an operating room management and teaching diploma from the College of Nursing Australia (1966) and a nursing education diploma from the college (1973) Morwick was well placed to meet the emerging changes in nursing education in Australia.

As a senior tutor in the Alfred Hospital School of Nursing and with her knowledge of theatre practice and her academic qualifications, Morwick was given the responsibility of implementing a new education program for theatre nurses. She also rewrote the operating theatre protocols in 1977 an important basic text for all students.

Improved nurse education and assessment in the operating suite gave trainees greater preparation before their routine 12-week program in theatre, and thereby became more helpful to patients having operations.

Nurses spent some weeks in the school of nursing learning the ropes and were then assigned to patients for their pre and post-operative care. Patients responded better to having a face they "knew" throughout the daunting process of surgery.

Trainee nurses fostered by Morwick had to complete written work and be assessed. It was a role she loved, capitalising on her primary skills as a fine nurse teacher she had probably acquired many of those skills through her own formidable experiences. She continued in this role until 1989, when she retired.

The first of three children born to George and Esther (White), Morwick's formative years were in Williamstown. Her father was a seafarer master of the tugboat Minah and licensed to go out through the heads of Port Phillip Bay to the "three-mile limit". When the Great Depression hit hard, George took his boat to Geelong to find more work, leaving his family behind for a short period.

Later, the family moved to Geelong, where George retained the Minah before selling it to Geelong Harbour Board and opting for a more sedentary life of sail and tent making. He made a lot of tents for the army during World War II.

Morwick was educated at Geelong High School, and then spent her last two years at Morongo Girls College, also in Geelong, where she was an outstanding student. She wanted to become a nurse but, with World War II raging, not to mention her father's discouragement, she completed her leaving certificate with honours. She then spent three years at the Gordon Institute's wool research laboratory.

When a friend said she wanted to become a nurse, Morwick decided to join her and they left Geelong to start at the Alfred Hospital in 1948.

After graduating and completing her postgraduate year, she obtained her midwifery certificate at the Royal Women's Hospital before returning to the Alfred as a charge nurse, relieving in theatre. At age 26 Morwick became charge nurse of a 45-bed female medical ward, a position held until 1960. She also spent weekends in the Army Reserve, at skeleton hospitals in Puckapunyal and Healesville set up to train nurses in protocols during war. Morwick was awarded a defence service medal for this work.

She turned to theatre nursing when she accompanied two doctor friends overseas, working first at Royal Brompton Hospital in London, and a year later in the theatre at John Sealy Hospital in Texas. Morwick thrived on the experience and returned to Melbourne in 1962 with many anecdotes and a Texan accent. She also travelled to New Guinea as part of an Australian medical team working in operating rooms when tuberculosis was rife.

Morwick had a passion for holidaying in Australia and overseas. She travelled through the Kimberley, from Broome and Darwin, and to New Zealand and Scotland. She was at one stage president of the Melbourne Ladies Probus Club and a theatre and music lover and avid card player. In retirement she developed a passion for genealogy and worked tirelessly on the White and Morwick family trees, writing a book on the White family (1857-1897). She was also a staunch member of Geelong Football Club and was present at the 1963 premiership, and lived to see the next three premierships in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

She is survived by her sister, Lois, and five nephews and nieces. Her brother George predeceased her.

Related Articles