A NSW Government website


Nurses Home Courtyard

bookmarkCategory: RPA Historical Walking Tour
feed Stop: 6
location_on Location: Kerry Packer Education Centre Courtyard (off John Hopkins Drive)


Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: Matron Hetherington and Nursing graduation, 1947

Formerly known as the Nurses Home Quadrangle, this stunning garden was created as a restful retreat for on-duty nurses between their shifts. The wall behind you (at Stop 6) is a remnant of the 1914 and 1936 building extensions. Today the tranquil space is known as the Kerry Packer Education Centre Courtyard, serving as an overflow and lunch space during conferences and events connected to the education centre and for hospital staff.

Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: Nurses in uniform, ca. 1920

At the hospital's opening in 1882, the nursing staff comprised five Sisters and 12 nurses trained by the Nightingale Academy. Initially, following principles of nursing inspired by Florence Nightingale's methods, each ward had dedicated nursing staff, and nurses were expected to reside in the wards they worked in. However, by 1892 the hospital administration built a separate Nurses' Home next to the planned Albert or 'A' Block Pavilion. It provided 50 individual suites for nurses, a feature they greatly appreciated, as was the inner courtyard 'Quadrangle', formed by the additions to the original Home. It was extended in 1914 to accommodate 210 nurses and again in 1936 to accommodate 400 nurses. Nursing accommodation transferred to the Queen Mary Home for Nurses on Grose Street in 1956, which opened to house 750 nurses in individual rooms.

Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: Nurses’ Sitting Room, ca. 1915

'After leaving the Preliminary Training School, we were accommodated in the old Nurses' Home. Depending on your luck, you either had a room or slept on the open verandahs, living out of suitcases with a share of a wardrobe. I slept with seven other nurses on one of these verandahs. As these verandas faced St. John's College (one of the male Sydney University Colleges), getting undressed and into bed was a case of lights out as nurses arrived off duty and then the nurse nearest the light turned it on for those who wanted to study, there being no other facilities available. All this to the accompaniment of whistles from the college. It was amazing how you got used to sleeping with the lights on. Looking back, the understanding and co-operation were amazing.'

—Trainee Nurse Shirley Harrison, 1949

In 1984, nurse training ceased to be an apprenticeship and became a degree-qualified profession. Education of new nurses moved to tertiary institutions with the final Royal Prince Alfred Hospital educated class graduating in 1987. In 2000, the 1910 and 1936 additions were demolished to make way for the new Clinical Services Building. There were at the times over 1000 nurses on staff working in wards across the hospital's campus. Nursing accommodation had long since closed with the modernisation of nursing practices.

Museum Walking Tour
RPA Museum Image: Nurses’ Sitting Room, ca. 1915

Next stop