45 years of caring for the Greater Western Sydney community

Hawkesbury District Health Service Director of Nursing David Simmonds has recently notched up 45 years of nursing, all of which has been spent within the Greater Western Sydney community.

14 Jun 2022

Hawkesbury District Health Service Director of Nursing David Simmonds

David, who joined the hospital four years ago, said his journey into nursing was starkly different to that of nurses today.

After finishing school in 1976, job opportunities were limited but David had fortuitously seen a neighbour enjoy and thrive in a nursing career. So he decided to follow suit.

Unlike the university study required of nurses today, David trained on the job.

“The majority of my career was spent at Westmead Hospital where I was lucky enough to work in the Intensive Care Unit and then have the opportunity to be promoted and recognised for my potential,” he said.

“I was actually a Charge Nurse in my fourth year of being a registered nurse.”

His career took a sharp turn when he decided to follow in his wife’s footsteps and train to become a midwife. He was one of four men in the cohort of 16 to do the training.

“I knew absolutely nothing about midwifery but I learned so much and found it a very rewarding experience,” he said.

“I think the best job in my entire career has been delivering babies.”

David’s career demonstrates the diversity available for nurses. He took time away from full time work to support his family while his wife returned to work full time, and he worked as a casual nurse in a range of hospitals throughout the region.

He was Nurse Unit Manager of one of the first patient flow unit’s in Australia and then progressed into senior leadership positions as Director of Nursing, a role he continues today at Hawkesbury District Health Service.

Since taking on this role, his leadership has been put to the test with fires, floods (multiple) and COVID-19 affecting the community and the hospital directly.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a phenomenal challenge for everyone at our hospital, just as it has been for everyone in health care,” David said.

“When it first hit, it took me back to my early days of nursing caring for the first patients with AIDS. There were so many similarities between the sentiment towards people affected by AIDS in the 1980s and the feelings and fear towards some sections of our community with COVID-19 broke out.

“Some of the proudest moments in my career were the ways we cared for our patients with AIDS, and I was immensely impressed to see this same level of care re-emerge for patients with COVID-19.

“We took the necessary precautions to protect ourselves but patient care was never compromised.”

The floods and fires also brought huge challenges to the hospital community, which David and his team were able to respond to, often in inventive ways.

“The floods cut off people living on the other side of the river to the hospital so this meant we have staff who weren’t able to get to work and patients who couldn’t come to us for care,” he said.

“So we had community nurses, and palliative care nurses travelling across by boat to deliver the care and pregnant women were coming in the other direction to make sure they received the care they needed.”

Looking towards the future, David said he was excited for the opportunities on the horizon.

“This region is rapidly growing, so I do expect the hospital to continue growing in response as more and more people realise we are here and the amazing care we provide each and every day.”