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Nursing and Midwifery - It's in the family

If you speak to a nurse or midwife it fast becomes clear that, it’s not just a job, it’s a vocation – a calling that evokes a passion, essential to success in the role.

In honour of the World Health Organisation’s International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we spent some time catching up with two of our nurses and midwives, for whom nursing and midwifery is a family affair.

Rachael Lumsden is a practicing Senior Midwife at Auckland DHB and her niece Hanna Chaplin is a final year Nurse Graduate. The two of them credit their passion for nursing and midwifery to Rowena Lumsden, grandmother to Rachael and great-grandmother to Hanna.

Two women wearing grey uniforms

Rowena started her nursing career in her twenties and later moved into midwifery. Since Rowena’s mother passed away when she was four days old, her fervent motto was ‘No baby or woman would die from [her] poor care.’

Determined from the get go, Rowena ignored her family’s criticism of her career and continued to practice midwifery well into her eighties.

Two of Rowena’s children continued the family tradition and became nurses and midwives themselves. This has carried on right through to Rachael and Hanna. “We’re onto the fourth generation of nursing and midwifery in our family,” says Rachael. “It’s coming up a hundred years, I guess. No small feat!”

A woman looks at a historical nurse photo on her phone.

Rachael recalls Rowena often shared her most treasured career moments; she spoke of being proud that she was the one who took the time to ‘spruce up’ the patients, she was the one who went and washed their hair and tidied them up. She really enjoyed taking that extra bit of time with people. Rachael believes her grandmother was born to be a nurse.

Rachael’s pathway to midwifery was less direct. Starting off as a naturopath, she was keen to pursue a career in natural cosmetics. But it was her time spent working in fertility clinics that led her to study midwifery.

Rachael explains, “I came into Auckland DHB and really thrived on the high risk, and social needs that many of our patients have here … it’s really rewarding to work with these people.”

For Rachael’s niece Hanna, the pull to healthcare started young. “When I was seven I told mum I wanted to be a paediatrician and that’s something that’s always stuck with me,” she says. “When I went to university I decided to do nursing, and I’ve absolutely loved it so far.”

Hanna has also spent some of her training time at Middlemore hospital, walking the same halls that her Great Grandmother Rowena did as a Charge Midwife in the sixties.

The family ties to nursing and midwifery stretch beyond the shores of New Zealand with an aunty and two cousins in Arizona, USA, who are all nurses.  

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