It was Aunty Irene Hills who kindled Chris Mirow’s desire to be a nurse.
“My aunty was a matron at Royal Newcastle Hospital and she used to give us her old nursing veils and I have photos of me this high with her veils on, so I was always going to be a nurse,” Mrs Mirow said.
“I just thought I’d be like her.”
A Gunnedah girl, Mrs Mirow left school in 1967 when she was 16.
“I didn’t go on to do my HSC because I knew I could start nursing when I was 17 and that was halfway through the next year,” she said.
“I’ve always been interested in people and helping them.”
Her memory is strong of the day she left Gunnedah behind to head to the big smoke to start her study.
“I caught the train down to Newcastle on the 17th of October 1968 to begin my career,” she said.
“I was just an innocent country girl.”
Mrs Mirow said it was “very strict”.
“For the first 12 months I lived in the nurse’s quarters and then I moved out into a flat.”
Mrs Mirow said in those days they trained in the hospital and she spent four years at the Royal Newcastle Hospital. She trained in general nursing for three years and then worked in the gynecology department for six months before starting her midwifery certificate in 1972.
“I knew eventually, being a country girl, I would go back to the country and to work in the country, to get a job easily, you were silly if you didn’t do your double certificate because basically in a lot of small, country towns you needed general and midwifery,” she said.
Mrs Mirow’s aunty was still matron during her training years but she still “got into trouble the same as everyone else”.
“We were on the beach and when we came home we had to come in the back entrance and she caught me coming in the front entrance one day because I was going to be late for work… so I didn’t get any special privileges,” Mrs Mirow said.
“If a whole heap of you were coming out of the lift, the senior nurses had to come out of the lift first. It was very strict.”
Mrs Mirow said they were taught the theory then immediately applied it in the hospital. The registered nurse said “if you were interested”, you could get a lot out of both training and working in the hospital.
“A lot of the doctors went out of their way to explain things to you,” she said.
“It was just a great way to learn.”
When she had finished her midwifery certificate, Mrs Mirow moved to Tamworth in 1973 to work in the hospital in midwifery for 12 months.
Every birth was just a wonderful event,Chris Mirow
“When we did our certificate we had to actually deliver 20 babies by ourselves before we could sit our state exams and we had to witness over 100 births and then you went out on your own and were thrown in the deep end,” she said.
“I was a little bit sneaky – I went to Tamworth because I knew I’d be working with someone else whereas I knew if I came to Gunnedah, you had a nurse with you but that was it,” she said.
“I needed the experience before I got flung into the deep end.
“It was very scary.”
Mrs Mirow had six weeks off after having her appendix removed then returned to work.
“I went back and Mum and Dad said, ‘Come home and work, we miss you’ so I said, ‘Right I will come home for 12 months’,” Mrs Mirow said.
Within the first year, she met the late Greg Mirow who was working at the NVI and never left Gunnedah again. She settled in at the Gunnedah District Hospital in 1974 and married Greg in 1977. They welcomed their first child Brendan into their family in 1983, followed by their daughter Erin in 1985.
After 10 years at the hospital, Mrs Mirow started working at a medical practice and was a practice nurse with Dr David Cooke for 10 years. Dr Cooke left town in late 1998 and Mrs Mirow started on a new path.
“Ros Millerd said to me at the Namoi Valley Independent Christmas party, ‘Would you be interested in working in pharmacy?’ and I said, “I’d be interested in doing anything’,” Mrs Mirow said.
She started working as a nurse at Peter F Dennis Pharmacy in 1999 and the pharmacy was later bought by Karen and David Carter and renamed Karen Carter Chemist. To this day, Mrs Mirow is a familiar face in the pharmacy, checking blood pressure and blood sugar, weighing babies, giving advice on first aid and babies, and assisting with the diabetes scheme.
Despite the challenges she faced in 12 years of midwifery, Mrs Mirow said “I love delivering babies”.
“Every birth was just a wonderful event,” she said.
Mrs Mirow said her “favourite job” was working in general practice because of the contact with the patients.
“I saw the full circle from when they were sick to when they were fully recovered,” she said.
“I love people. I’m a people person.”
When she looks back over the decades, Mrs Mirow said there’s “no way” it felt like 50 years had passed.
“I can honestly say I have enjoyed my 50 years in the nursing profession and I honestly couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” she said.