Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Development of Intensive Care Nursing as a Specialty at Wellington Hospital Intensive Care Unit, Wellington, New Zealand, 1964-1989

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posted on 2021-11-12, 00:05 authored by Harper, Elinore

Intensive care nursing developed as a specialty with the advent of intensive care units (ICUs) following the poliomyelitis outbreaks of the 1950s. In New Zealand (NZ) the first ICU was opened in the early 1960s in Auckland. Many ICUs were quickly established in other NZ hospitals around this time with Wellington Hospitals ICU opening in 1964. This work explores the first 25 years of the development of the Wellington ICU and the specialisation of ICU nursing. Oral history interviews with past and present staff who worked and taught in the ICU during this time and Hospital archives and primary documentation sources provided much of the background information about this development. One find during the cataloguing of materials and administrative records prior to the move to the newly built Wellington Regional Hospital was the patient admission records documenting each year of the unit‟s operation since it opened. The information gathered from these records provided data on patient demographics, giving age, admission diagnosis, discharge destination, mortality information and admission source for each patient admitted. Education of the nurses, many of whom were embracing the knowledge and technology required to look after ICU patients for the first time was paramount to the care of the critically ill patient. With the advent of an ICU six-month nursing course in 1968 many of the educational needs of the nurses were met. Working relationships with the medical staff were very different from those that many nurses had been used to when working in the wards with the Doctor - Nurse relationship becoming less formal and more collaborative. This thesis illustrates the hard work and determination of those early nurses to provide excellent and appropriate care and translate knowledge into practice in order to look after these critically ill patients.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Nursing

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Graduate School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health


Nelson, Kathy; Wood, Pamela