St George Hospital Emergency Department nurse retires | St George & Sutherland Shire Leader


A caring approach: A 60-year career in nursing comes to an end for Kerrie Osterberg. Picture: Chris Lane

You’ve got to have a lot of patience for patients.

Sylvania’s Kerrie Osterberg should know. She’s had 60 years of practice.

The dedicated nurse who spent the past 40 years in the emergency department at St George Hospital, retired this month.

It’s an exceptional achievement. One that the Leader Certainly thought was worthy to highlight, particularly as May 12 marks International Nurses Day, a global celebration of the profession’s impact on healthcare.

Mrs Osterberg, 77, worked as a night shift Nursing Unit Manager. It was 1962 when she began at the Mater Hospital in North Sydney. There she did midwifery, and then moved to Sutherland Hospital where she trained in intensive care. London called for a while, but she returned to the local health district, while growing her family de ella.

She finds it difficult to pinpoint one standout memory, which speaks volumes of perhaps all the unforgettable experiences that echoed through the wards.

“There are so many moments where I feel I made a difference,” she said. “There are wonderful ones, there are sad ones. Often patients come in extremely ill, then you see them stabilize and on the road to recovery.”

She says a simple conversation with a patient makes “a world of difference.”

“Having a chat with them and giving them a warm blanket if they cold at night makes them feel like they aren’t in a strange place,” she said. “Many are frightened and vulnerable when they come in. You have to be prepared to listen because lots of people have a lot of other problems. That’s when they know you care.”

But Mrs Osterberg, no doubt an inspiring mentor to her junior colleagues, admits she did “run a tight ship.”

“I was very strict,” she said. “I trained at the Mater with nuns. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly. You have to have a ton of empathy and compassion. You have to be strong in some very difficult situations.”

Nursing has come a long way since simply being the medication-giver. “Now we have an entirely different workforce,” Mrs Osterberg said. “Nurses are the backbone of healthcare, working on the frontline to help manage unpredictable environments in a wide range of patient needs. You never know what you’re going to get on any shift.”

You have to have a ton of empathy and compassion. You have to be strong in some very difficult situations.

Kerrie Osterberg

She credits her longevity to solid working relationships. “In the emergency department, you don’t work on your own,” she said. “Doctors, nurses, radiologists, pathologists, we all need to be collaborative. You have to make sure you treat everyone the same way. I’ve never been one to say ‘they’re just the cleaners. We are all family.”

It was that same extended family who formed a surprise guard of honor for her final shift on Mother’s Day.

“I was completely and utterly overwhelmed,” Mrs Osterberg said. “So many colleagues came from many different places. It was very emotional, I love the place, but it’s time to go.

“I will miss the incredible lot of people. I will miss the laughter. I will miss being more like a mother to them, and more like a grandmother to the young graduates. I will miss the patients.”

Mrs Osterberg is excited to travel to the US to see her four children and five grandchildren. “It’s been two and a half years since I’ve seen them,” she said. “I look forward doing just ordinary things like reading. My husband of 51 years and I love the theater so we will go more often.”

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