Pauline Schwartz   Physiotherapist Children's Wards 1970 - 1976

                                 Physiotherapist Paediatric OPD 1982 - 1998

I began working at Wellington Hospital in February 1970 and was assigned to Paediatrics as the then Charge Physiotherapist, Barbara Tomlinson, had decided it was time they had a full time, experienced Physio. The wards were in the original King Edward VII Children’s Hospital. Ward 19 was Babies and under Fives (I think) Medical. Ward 17 was for older Children with acute and chronic Medical conditions including cancers. Ward 18 was Children’s Surgical. (Surgical cases under 12 months went to Ward 19) It had a small room for burns patients and one for isolating infectious diseases or seriously ill children needing special nursing.

Ward 17 transferred from the old Victoria Wing to the first floor of the Children’s Hospital about 2 weeks after I’d started work. It had a big playroom attached to the ward, and an Isolation unit. The school room was off the corridor leading to Paediatric Department offices. 

Ward Sisters were Helen Whelan then Francie Vagg in Ward 19; Ada (Agathe) Yska in Ward 18; and Barbara Diggins in Ward 17.

Paediatricians were Drs Jeffray Weston, Richard Bush, Athol Arthur and Mark Hoby. General Surgeons were John McIlwaine and Richard Aldridge. Orthopaedic Surgeons were John Saunders, Wyn Beasley , Graeme Smaill and Jeremy Hopkins. After Mr Smaill’s sudden death Peter Hunter replaced him and later Tony Griffin joined their team.  Urologists were Humphrey Gowland and Fergus Ferguson. Neurosurgeons were Anthony James and Graeme Martin. Other Specialists were consulted as required. Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology child patients were cared for in their wards.


Many of the House Surgeons and Registrars I remember from the 7 years I worked in the wards went on to become Specialists and Professors. In Paediatrics, Michael Watt, Simon Rowley, David Brabyn, Vaughan Richardson, the late Diana Lennon and the late Kevin Gaskin. In Orthopaedics, Chris Bossley, Alan Thurston and Geoffrey Horne. Neurosurgery Russell Worth;  Dermatology the late John Adams;  Gastroenterology Nigel Stace: Radiology Rodney Allen and in Urology, Stuart Gowland.

School Teachers were seconded from Newtown School, Betty Norman for Ward 17 and any who could be taken to the School room; Jan Williams for the older children and Isabel Jones for the younger ones in Ward 18. Children were in hospital for many weeks at that time and they benefited from the one-to-one teaching. “The Play Lady” (later called Play Therapist) used Ward 17’s playroom and some preschool children from Wards 18 and 19 were taken up for guided play sessions there until Barbara Hargreaves left and I don’t remember her being replaced. I worked with children in  there too.

It was all very formal, titles were always used so it was Sister, Mrs, Miss, Nurse, Dr, and Mr so and so. It was a surprise when I returned later to have everyone using first names.

Most of my work was in those wards but I regularly treated  babies in the postnatal nursery and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where Lani Wills was in charge. I took asthma classes each week and treated some outpatients in the Physiotherapy Outpatient and Rehab departments. A lot of  my time was spent working with the splint makers and surgical bootmakers. Amputees were treated by the Limb Centre Physiotherapists. I worked closely with the Visiting Cerebral Palsy Therapist, later named Visiting Neurodevelopmental Therapist and the Crippled Children Society (CCS) Field Officers.

A very significant change was when a group of registered nurses, whose own children were young adults, returned to nursing after a refresher course, the Retreads they called themselves! As they  were all older and experienced mothers the patients’ mothers trusted them more than they did the younger staff and student nurses.  The young doctors found them a great resource for advice and support with handling babies, ‘difficult’ toddlers, and  learning new procedures. They taught me a lot too, and being told I was as good as a nurse was a great compliment! At the time Kenepuru Hospital was not yet  in existence, so the influx of families from the Pacific Islands to Porirua meant many very sick babies from there were admitted to Wellington Hospital. The families found it so cold here and the children had no resistance, particularly to respiratory illnesses.

Ward 19 had Staff Nurses Jess Pallin, Barbara Edmondson and Teddie (Elizabeth) Christmas from that intake. Senior Staff nurses were  Mrs Forch, Hilary Harper, Rosemary Cooke, Sue Hall,  Merian Litchfield and  Judy McLean. Karitane nurses also covered each daytime shift. 

Ward 17’s ‘retread’ was Helen Uridge. Sister Harrison was already in charge of the Isolation Unit. Ward 18 already had Elsa Kaosaar, Sue Parker, Annette Somerville and Jennie McKenzie as permanent senior Staff nurses and Faye Jennings was their “retread” . Ward 18 also had ‘community nurses’,  who had completed the 2 year enrolled nurse training, on the permanent staff. Born nurses they were and the children loved them..

Another big change was the transfer of nurse training from the hospital’s School of Nursing to Polytechnic courses.  People were either positive or negative about it at first then the tutors and students settled in to gain their own and others’ confidence. 

At the time there were many cases of Spina Bifida in the world and N.Z. had large numbers too. Wellington Hospital had established a Combined Clinic for Wellington, Lower North Island and Upper South Island children. Hutt Hospital established their own one. Each month 6-8 children and their families attended on a Saturday morning to be seen by all specialists at the one appointment. They had the same specialists throughout their lives. The team discussed the findings and planned future treatments together with the parents and visiting therapists. Sister Whelan ran the Clinic until  Shirley Smith an ex District nurse and a CCS Field Officer, became the first Spina Bifida Nurse. I was one of that team for 7 years until I left on parental leave in 1976, and again from 1982 to about 1994 when it was no longer necessary because the children by then were young adults and very few new cases were being born. The importance of folic acid in preventing neural tube defects has had a global impact, and the consequent decreased birthrates.

Early detection changed the prevalence of Congenital Dislocation of the Hips and early diagnosis of Cystic Fibrosis by the “click test’ and Guthrie heel prick test for all newborn babies respectively. In my early days in Ward 18 we had children enduring long periods of traction in preparation for surgery to relocate hips, post op immobilisation and getting them walking afterwards.  In Ward 19 “failure to thrive” babies who used to have to wait for sweat test results to confirm a diagnosis of CF could start drug  regimes and the parents taught the daily, life long Physiotherapy programmes much earlier.  

I returned to paediatrics in 1982, not in the wards but working with outpatients, based in Physiotherapy Rehab. in the 210 block. The Visiting ND Therapists at that time were Occupational Therapists and  they realised that many patients needed Physiotherapy for their Neurodevelopmental  conditions, Cerebral Palsy, Developmental Delay, Juvenile forms of Arthritis, Multiple Disabilities, Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders, and other disorders of movement. I extended treatment by going off campus to the IHC Junior Centre, local Early Childhood Centres and Miramar Central School’s Special Needs Classrooms and teaching the teachers exercise programmes, correct handling and lifting etc.   A lot of therapy was carried out in the Hydrotherapy Pool. The physios at the Puketiro Centre, Kenepuru and Hutt Hospitals also provided therapy but not off campus as I did.  I was part of some Early Intervention teams but they were short lived. Provision of wheelchairs and special seating was a large component in the management of these children.

Administrative changes in the 90s meant the autonomous departments were combined into “Therapies”  under a Manager who often had no knowledge of what Physios, O.T.s, Speech Language Therapists, Social Workers and Dietitians actually did. (As an Archivist you would have been as upset as we were by the first Manager’s disposal of the old Physiotherapy Outpatient registers, dating from the  W.W.I period . They were lovely leather bound tomes with copperplate handwriting in the earlier entries. We tried to persuade her to keep these historic items or ask Roy Towers to keep them but she was adamant.  I hope Roy did not hear of this destruction).  I was an ‘honorary member’ of the Community Health’s Physical Disabilities  team of specialist nurses and therapists, led by Shirley Smith, who was the first Nurse Specialist.

Eventually in 1998 my position in Therapies was “disestablished” and I had to take redundancy. I then did a 6 month part time contract with Child Health, first at Wellington then Puketiro, but only for 0 to 6 year old patients. No more 7 to 16 year olds  or off campus therapy in educational settings. That contract was not renewed, and my application for the full time physio position unsuccessful, so very sadly I had to leave Physiotherapy altogether.

Pauline Schwartz,  (a.k.a. Misspy Payne to the older kids in Ward 18’s balconies in 1970).


Last updated 28 April 2021.