FROM the age of four, Rhonda Ward wanted to do one thing with her life.
Recently, Ms Ward retired from her lifelong passion almost 50 years to the day since she started her training as a nurse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Ms Ward was born and schooled in Tamworth and spent a lot of her working life in the country music capital.
While some would apply nominative determinism to a woman named Ward roaming the halls of a hospital, she has spent the last 18 years of her career in a modest office helping Tamworth people with some of their most intimate issues.
She has been an IVF and fertility nurse for Genea since it established its Tamworth office in the year 2000.
Since then, she has helped many families traverse the, at times, fragile and fraught trail of assisted conception.
The emotional investment can be high and the heartbreak proportionally painful for a nurse.
However, she said it was the best part of her entire nursing career.
“I think we go into nursing because we love helping people that is, by and large, why women and men choose nursing,” she said.
“Added to that, my love of women’s health, I can’t think of anything better than to help a couple have a healthy baby.”
From half a century in the health industry, she has seen medicine and science make quantum leaps in efficacy and ability.
“[IVF] was, even in 2000, not relatively new but the changes that have happened since then, it has been a joy to travel.
“For instance, the ability to eradicate many specific genetic diseases and that has been a joy to watch progress.”
While the science has bounded forward, there is still a stigma IVF patients apply to themselves.
“There is still be a bit of stigma about IVF, so you try and encourage them to understand it’s a bit of help to achieve a healthy pregnancy,” she said.
“Guilt can be a really difficult problem.
“The couple who come here to see coming to see a specialist, they can be hostile, quietly hostile, but we know they’re angry because they’re cross with themselves that this has happened.”
Kate Hughes has taken over as Genea’s Tamworth nurse and she said there were some big shoes for her to fill. “I’m optimistically daunted by the future,” Ms Hughes said.
“I’m very excited to be starting this journey because like Rhonda I am passionate about women’s health.
“I’m also aware I don’t have 18 years of experience and know it will come with time and even though Rhonda is retiring she will continue to be a great support.”
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.