Juanita Sherwood

  • Professor and Associate Dean at the faculty of Medicine and Health University of Sydney
  • Nurse of forty years

“She made me feel safe and valued. This was a feeling I wanted to be able to share with others”

Q1) Name: Juanita Sherwood

Q2) Current role: Professor and Associate Dean at the faculty of Medicine and Health University of Sydney

Q3) How long have you been a nurse/midwife? 40 years

Q4) Why did you want to you want to become a nurse/midwife?

Why I chose to become a nurse. It came about as a result of my experience of being a patient. I was 16 years old and I had gallstones. It took a while to diagnose because I was so young, it used to be a disease for the fair, fat and forty-year old’s, I changed this story. I was the youngest patient at St. Vincents Hospital to have my gallstones removed. This was a big surgical operation back in 1976, I have a scar about 10 inches vertically across my tummy.

In those days they pried open your ribs with retractors to take out your gallbladder and so you were very sore for a few days. I had to leave my home in the South Coast of NSW to spend the Christmas holidays in hospital. I was not a happy girl. The operation was successful, and the post op stay was 10 days. I was terribly lonely and sad doing Christmas on my own away from family. Fortunately for me I met two very special people in hospital during this time. A nurse who spent special times with me. The nurse comforted me when I was in pain which was for a number of days, assisted me to do private things like using a bed pan and washing my body which I had never let anyone see. She assured me that I was progressing well and was there to wipe up my tears when I was embarrassed, in pain or just sad.

She made me feel safe and valued. This was a feeling I wanted to be able to share with others. It was during this time, that I decided that I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to make others feel safe and protected like I had been.

Safety is such an essential part of patient care and during my 30 years plus years of nursing I have noted that many health professionals don’t actually appreciate that fact. As a patient in later years I have sadly felt unsafe in the care of many health professionals. I have had my identity questioned, and I have also been abused because I had acknowledged that I was Aboriginal. I have been told that we are not good people, that we can’t be trusted.

Q5) What were the enablers and barriers for you to complete your degree? Pathway into nursing/midwifery – how did you get to where you are today?
I trained within the hospital setting and I chose this over the college because I would be paid a salary throughout my training. This was important as I was not able to access any scholarships, etc.

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