A passionate unionist and advocate of infection control

25 December 1938 – 11 August 2007

Retired Kempsey nursing sister Chrystal Bowen died on 11 August 2007 aged 68, after a long battle with failing health.

Chrystal enjoyed a 40-year nursing career and on her retirement, was honoured by the NSW Nurses’ Association with life membership.

Chrystal started nursing two days after her 16th birthday in 1954 when she joined the staff at Kempsey District Hospital as a cadet nurse and, a year later, began her four years training to become a registered nurse.

On graduation Chrystal and fellow nursing sister, Carmel Hayes, sailed to Perth on the Manoora to do their obstetric training at The King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women in Subiaco.

After graduating, Chrystal nursed at Pingelly Hospital, south-east of Perth before returning home and working both at Ballina and Macksville hospitals.

She later travelled to Western Australia again, working at the Pinjarra Hospital south of Perth, before coming home to Kempsey for Christmas in 1964 and rejoining the staff at Kempsey District Hospital in early 1965.

Shortly afterwards, Chrystal realised her ambition to work full-time in the operating theatre, becoming the Nursing Unit Manager.

There she applied herself with dedication and skill, encouraging and inspiring confidence in all who worked with her.

The theatre was her domain until retirement. Chrystal had completed a specialised theatre-training course and other courses, including Recovery and Management, and became a Fellow of the College of Nursing, a member of the Operating Theatre Sisters’ Association and a member of the Institute of Nursing Administrators of NSW.

She was adamant about infection control and was instrumental in the formation of the NSW Infection Control Committee, which grew out of a meeting she convened with four people at Kempsey District Hospital.

The committee has since grown into a major organisation.

Chrystal attended the first World Conference of Operating Theatres, in Manila in the Philippines, and attended the state conference each year in Sydney, and the national conference every second year in various state capitals.

As a member of the NSW Nurses’ Association, Chrystal was active in furthering the interests of nursing personnel. A letter from the Assistant General Secretary of the Association, Brett Holmes, acknowledged her 34 years of membership and the exemplary way in which she supported the Association and served the profession of nursing.

Chrystal represented the Kempsey branch as a delegate to conferences and served as a branch secretary of Zone 5 of the NSW Council of the Association, which covered the area from Taree to the Queensland border.

During her nursing career, Chrystal saw many changes in health services, some not so desirable and some for the better, such as being able to airlift patients needing specialist attention as in cases of neurosurgery to city hospitals.

Coupled with the appreciation of the Nurses’ Association, Chrystal retired with the good wishes of the members of the nursing and medical staff, together with the many whose lives she’d touched through her work over the years.

By Jennifer Clarke, RN, President, NSWNA branch Kempsey District Hospital