Joan Durdin

AM RN BA(Hons)(Adel) FRCNA(Hon) D Univ(Flind)

Nurse Educator (retired)

Dr Joan Durdin was born in Adelaide in 1922 and was educated at the Methodist Ladies College. After completing her general nursing training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) in 1945 she gained further certificates in infectious diseases nursing, midwifery, children’s nursing and infant welfare. She became a staff nurse in 1946 and subsequently a charge nurse from 1949-50. On being awarded a Florence Nightingale Scholarship in 1949, Joan studied in London and gained a Sister Tutor Diploma at the London University in 1951. Appointments followed at the Postgraduate Hospital, Hammersmith, London and Western General, Toronto in 1952. She returned to Adelaide in 1953 and taught nursing as a Tutor Sister at the RAH until 1964. After a year at the University of Adelaide, where she gained a Diploma in Arts and Education, Joan spent six years teaching nurses in Papua New Guinea upon being appointed Tutor Sister, Anglican Mission Hospital, Dogura from 1966-72.

Upon returning to Adelaide Dr Durdin recommenced nursing duties at the RAH where she was appointed Supervisory Sister in 1973. From 1974 to 1983, she joined the teaching staff of the nursing department at the Sturt College of Advanced Education (now part of Flinders University) assisting in the preparation of the first basic nursing course at tertiary level introduced in Australia in 1975 as approved by the Nurses Board of South Australia.

Shortly after her retirement Dr Durdin completed studies for an Honours degree in history at the University of Adelaide (1984). An appointment as a Member of the Order of Australia followed in 1985 for services to nursing education.  She became a member of the Royal Adelaide Hospital Heritage and History Committee in 1989. Her Honours degree formed the basis of her history of nursing in South Australia, They Became Nurses, which was published in 1991. Her history of nursing education at the Royal Adelaide Hospital titled Eleven Thousand Nurses was published in 1999 and the second edition in 2005. Dr Durdin’s publications incorporate a good deal of oral testimony. This reflects her passion for oral history in documenting aspects of people’s lives, in the case of Eleven Thousand Nurses the story of nursing education at the RAH, and she remained active in writing on nursing subjects through journal articles and orations.

Dr Durdin received her honorary doctorate in 1994 during the commemoration of the centenary of women’s suffrage in South Australia in recognition of her pioneering activities in nursing education and she continues to play an active role in the activities of the Heritage and History Committee, Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Joan Durdin’s Publications:

  • (1991) They Became Nurses: A history of nursing in South Australia 1836-1980.
  • (1999, 2005) Eleven Thousand Nurses: A History of Nursing Education at the Royal Adelaide Hospital 1889-1993.