An elderly woman with golden hair in a grey top, sitting down and smiling
A photo of Fay Bathgate at the Eye and Ear’s 150th celebration

Staff at the Eye and Ear, past and present, were saddened to hear of the passing of former Matron of The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Fay Bathgate.

Fay started at the hospital in 1964, becoming Matron at only 36 years old. At the time it was considered quite unusual for someone so young to hold such a senior role, which is in itself a testament to Fay’s abilities.

A true trailblazer, Fay always saw the role of nurses as just as important as medical staff, and was the driving force behind many progressive changes over her 25-year service.

A true pioneer of person-centred care, Fay instituted many improvements including continuous visiting hours, understanding the important role friends and family provided in supporting holistic patient care. She was both a mentor and advocate for her nursing staff. A true innovator, she challenged and modernised many traditional nursing practices such as:

– The requirement for Nurses to stop work and stand with their hands behind their back when the Matron or medical staff entered the room or addressed them

– Nurses not beginning to eat their meal in the staff room until the Matron did, and being served lower quality meals than the registrars

– Junior staff seeking the Matron’s permission before leaving at the end of their shift

– Nurses having to wear nursing caps

A black and white photo of a woman sitting at a table with a pen in her hand wearing a white nursing top and a a large and broad nursing capA black and white photo of a woman in a white nursing outfit , wearing white high heels and holding a clipboard.

A photo of Fay after becoming Matron at the Eye and Ear (left), a photo of Fay wearing a new American style nursing uniform she introduced (right)

Fay progressed in her role from Matron to the Director of Nursing. She retired in 1989 after 25 years of service. Her fond affinity for the Eye and Ear meant Fay would often visit in her later years, and was invited to hospital milestone celebrations.

She saw many pioneering moments at the hospital, and worked with the pioneers themselves including Professor Graeme Clark who referenced her excellence and care in his own retirement speech, stating:

“I remember on many occasions meeting Fay Bathgate doing rounds well after she was scheduled to be off duty to be sure that patients had no problems.”

She herself was a pioneer in nursing at the Eye and Ear and we thank her for her commitment and dedication to the hospital during her years of service paving the way for the nurses who work at the hospital today. Fay was 95 when she passed, and we know her memory will live on in the countless lives she touched and the legacy of innovation she leaves behind.

The Eye and Ear credits Peter Donovan, author of ‘An Ornament To The City’: The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital’ for providing more information on Fay’s role and contribution to the hospital during her tenure.