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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 14. 1964.

Girls! Thought of Mental Nursing?

page 7

Girls! Thought of Mental Nursing?

To obtain a highly-paid Job in the holidays is extremely difficult for a girl. With lucrative employment such as a gut board operator or deer culler virtually unavailable, money raises quite a problem, especially when it is absolutely necessary for support during the varsity year.

For those willing to work long hours at a hard pace, mental nursing offers a way out. Remuneration is good, averaging from £15 to £20 a week with board taken off. This is possibly the highest rate available for a temporary female employee.

The immediate reaction of many to the suggestion of working in a mental hospital is one of extreme aversion based on ignorance and hearsay.

The situation is this Nurses work only with patients of their own sex. Only those with experience are placed with the so-called violent or dangerous inmates; therefore students have nothing to worry about on this account. Permanent employees are extremely helpful and always available to give advice and lend a hand.

The mental hospitals in New Zealand are placed in picturesque surroundings and offer a wide variety of recreation facilities—swimming, tennis, indoor basketball, etc. In addition, the functions for patients are entertaining in themselves. Over the Christmas period there are dances, a concert or pageant. Christmas parties and the inevitable arrival of Father Christmas for the younger inmates.

The actual work involved is plain nursing care and constant supervision. For those over 18 years, five days are worked, followed by a day off. The job starts at 7am and finishes at 8pm and 4.30pm on alternate days. This schedule incorporates overtime, paid at public service rates, which approximately equals basic pay.

In case this has given the impression of a delightful holiday, let all doubts be dispelled. The work is purely routine, is tough, both physically and mentally, and can be depressing. However, when weighed up against that lovely money it is very tempting. Staff shortages in mental hospitals are permanently grave and there is rarely any lack of jobs for temporary workers.

The work is an education in itself. New Zealanders have the unfortunate habit of dismissing completely from the mind anything smacking of distastefulness or social deviation. Mental health is one of our society's greatest financial burdens and it would be well if more people could be realistic about its existence.

Working in one of these institutions gives valuable insight into the problems of those committed. It is also an opportunity for imminent (amateur) psychologists to work out their own way of dealing with abnormal behaviour and to see reflections of their own personality defects in a slightly more exaggerated form. The conclusion one comes to is that there are very few glaring differences between the supposedly abnormal and the normal.