She’s been there from day one – when the old Cottage Hospital in nearby Ship Cove closed its doors – and the new health care centre opened up the road in Burin.
At the old Cottage Hospital, where Lillian worked as a casual nurse in 1987-88, space was limited – with a mix of patients and multiple medical issues all together in the one ward. The new space was a vast improvement: more room – and separate departments. A great, big empty space!
“I arrived before the furniture did,” Lillian says with a laugh. “There were no rooms set up – so we helped to do that – and we also set up the routines and protocols, many of which are still used today in obstetrics.”
Lillian says when the new health care centre opened there was a very small staff, which made for a very busy schedule, especially during the first days and weeks. “I worked so much at the beginning, in the new facility, that no one knew how to pay me!”
A much bigger concern for Lillian was the learning curve as a new, fulltime nurse with responsibility for bringing lives into the world – and keeping them there.
“In the beginning, I was terrified that I’d have to deliver a baby or care for one,” she remembers, smiling. “Newborns, sick babies and sick moms – I could write an encyclopedia, not a book!
“One morning, six women showed up in labour. We had to put one in the eye clinic – and one in the kitchenette!”
On the other side of the coin, Lillian says because the staff was so small, and had to do anything that needed doing, they gained a lot of knowledge. Over the years, she’s put that knowledge to good use, mentoring both nursing and medical students posted to the Burin site. She may have helped to build the obstetrical unit in Burin, and gained 25 years of experience along the way, but Lillian says she’s still adapting to change in health care, as processes improve and equipment becomes more sophisticated.
“We’ve come a long way. In fact, you know you’ve been here a long time when the baby you delivered comes here to deliver a baby of her own!”
Lillian still makes the 1.5 hour commute between Parker’s Cove and Burin every day, helping to bring babies safely into the world and to bring comfort and quality care to new mothers. It appears to be nothing short of a ‘labour of love.’
How do we know this? Well, she’s due to retire in five years’ time. And what does Lillian Murphy plan to do in her retirement?
“I plan to look after my grand-babies!”
Some things never change. ■
This story was written by Deborah Collins, a communications manager with Eastern Health, based in St. John’s.