Osburn - A true nursing pioneer
By Freda MacDonnell
March 1868, Lucy Osburn, with five other nursing sisters, arrived in Sydney to
take charge of the Infirmary.
They were sent by Florence
Nightingale in answer to an appeal from Henry Parkes, Premier of New South
Wales. A week later they had a royal patient, when the Duke of Edinburgh was
wounded by a would-be assassin at Clontarf. But in spite of the public acclaim
this brought them, Lucy Osburn and her staff faced a long fight with prejudice
and ignorance in their efforts to reform the infirmary.
The idea of gentlewomen
working as hospital nurses was still novel, and to many people shocking; Lucy
Osburn’s own father had turned her portrait to face the wall when she entered
the Nightingale College of Nursing. Thwarted at every turn by suspicion and
jealousy, even among the doctors, and by an inefficient system of management,
Lucy Osburn battled on undaunted, for 16 years and
eight months. Most of the Lucy Osburn sisters took up positions as matrons at various hospitals. By these
means the Nightingale teaching and standards became accepted practice in the
hospital system of the colony. By the time she returned to England she had laid
the foundation of modern nursing in New South Wales, and Sydney Hospital was
launched on its long and distinguished career of service to the community.
After some years nursing among the sick and poor in London, Lucy
died of diabetes at her sister’s home in Harrogate in 1891.