Historical information

The photograph shows a group of Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) Sisters receiving a lecture on 'Physical Handicap' given by Sr. Rowley in the Education Department at RDNS Headquarters 452 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne. Sr. Rowley is the Principal Nurse Educator at RDNS.


Education was an integral part of Melbourne District Nursing Society (MDNS), from its inception in 1885, later, in 1966, called Royal District Nursing Service, (RDNS). From 1885, only Trained nurses (Nurses), through the Hospital training system, were employed by the Society, and on visits to patients they taught the necessity of hygiene and cleanliness, as well as the need for a good diet, to bring about good health. Doctor’s lectures were later given at the MDNS home to instruct patients and their families on prevention of disease. Education to patients continued throughout the years regarding health care and the use of equipment in the home. In 1961, Education programs commenced at MDNS with Trained nurses (Sisters) receiving In-service education. Sr. Pat (Paddy) Rowley was a leader in In-service Education and established the RDNS Department of Community Nursing Education in 1962. Staff could also apply for scholarships to further their education outside of RDNS. Many of their senior Sisters received Postgraduate diplomas from the College of Nursing in Community Health Nursing, Education, and Administration, and several travelled overseas visiting nursing organizations viewing their public health and District nursing systems.
At RDNS many programs were run, including: a Post Basic Course, Cardiac Rehabilitation Nursing, Haematology/Oncology Nursing, Palliative Care program, Diabetic Stabilization Program, Leg Ulcer Management Program, Wound Care Specialist Program, HIV/AIDS Nursing Care, Cystic Fibrosis Home Support, Veterans Home Care Program, Breast Cancer Support Program, Continence Management Program, Stomal Therapy Program, In-Home Lactation Support Program and the Homeless Persons Program. RDNS Sisters attended several hospitals to observe and learn special care needed to some patients, e.g. to the Austin Hospital to learn the care required for paraplegic and quadriplegic patients at home, and to Mount Royal Hospital to observe the care of patients in the Rehabilitation ward. A Community Nursing Education Program was extended to student nurses from hospitals and to other nursing organizations.
These Education programs kept the RDNS Sisters abreast of new techniques, such as changes in technology for e.g. new testing methods in detecting glucose levels in Diabetic patients. Sr. Nan Deakin obtained a Post Basic Certificate in Psychiatric Nursing and included this area in her Education lectures. Sr. Daphne Geldard specialized in the area of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. These Sisters visited patients in District areas with the regular RDNS Sister when required. Every member of staff, both professional and non professional staff, received regular education in the Education Department.
In 1980, a Home Health Aide pilot study, funded by the Federal Government, the Brotherhood of St. Laurence and RDNS, with the program written and taught by Sr. Rowley, was evaluated as successful, and Home Health Aides were employed and worked in RDNS Centres under the supervision of the RDNS Sisters.

Physical description

This black and white photograph shows the back view of four rows of Royal District Nursing Service (RDNS) Sisters sitting at small tables and looking toward Sister Pat (Paddy) Rowley who is facing them. She is in the rear centre of the photograph. The 16 Sisters, some partly hidden, are wearing a variety of summer day clothes. Spectacle cases, pens, sheets of paper, and some books are on the tables in front of them. Sister Rowley who wears glasses; has short straight dark hair, is wearing a white short sleeve blouse under a dark V neck tunic style dress. She is looking at the group and her right hand is pointing to writing on a large blackboard standing to her right. To the left of the blackboard, a draped Human Torso Model sits on a table. A long dark curtain hangs behind part of the blackboard. Running along the left of the photograph is a wooden door with glass panels at the top, some light colour wall with a dark picture rail, and a set of double glass doors with long grey curtains either side. To the right of Sr. Rowley part of a large white board is seen hanging above and below the dark picture rail on the wall.

Inscriptions & markings

Barry Sutton LY 69