Lucy Osburn was born in Leeds, England in 1835 and was trained by the social reformer and founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale. In 1867, Nightingale sent Osburn and five other nurses to Sydney at the request of Henry Parkes to establish nursing methods and training at the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary on Macquarie Street, now known as Sydney Hospital.
Osburn had only been in Sydney for a week when she faced one of her first challenges. Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, had been shot in an assassination attempt during his visit to Sydney and she supervised his nursing.
She also faced challenges with the poor conditions of the hospital wards and infighting among her British nurses.
Her main achievement was to reform nursing practice and establish training methods. At the Sydney Infirmary and Dispensary she dismissed the male nurses, replaced them with female nurses, and introduced training on and off the wards.
As the first Lady Superintendent of the Sydney Hospital, she also enforced a strict hierarchical and regimented system that reflected the class system of the time.
Plagued by illness and criticisms regarding her management style, Osburn was forced to resign in 1884 and returned to England where she died in 1891.
Osburn has since been recognised as the founder of Nightingale nursing in Australia. The Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Museum has exhibition displays and archives in her old rooms at Sydney Hospital in a building known as the Nightingale Wing. Designed by the leading architect, Thomas Rowe and built in 1869, it is now the oldest building on the hospital site and is located in the courtyard behind the hospital.
Find the full program and buy passes for Sydney Open on the Sydney Living Museum’s website here: https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/sydneyopen
Nicole Cama is a professional historian, writer and curator, and the Executive Officer of the History Council of NSW. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity.
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