TENDER FAREWELL: The staff a the Condamine Medical Centre say goodbye to one of their most experienced members.
TENDER FAREWELL: The staff a the Condamine Medical Centre say goodbye to one of their most experienced members. Marian Faa

Life long career comes to an end

PEOPLE say when it's time to retire, you'll know.

Theresa Barrett didn't believe them, but after five decades at the heart of Warwick's medical community, she's feeling comfortable with her decision to finally hang up the badge.

In 1967, just 15 years old and a few weeks out of school, Theresa got a call from her doctor asking if she would work for him as a medical receptionist.

So began a lifelong career where Ms Barrett would become the first port of call for anyone in town with a cough, flu or serious ailment.

But a receptionist's job is not mundane work and it has left her with some amazing memories.

"As a solo staff member in the early days you had to do everything, help the doctors out with minor operations, sterilise all the materials in a pressure cooker on a gas stove - we did it all,” MsBarrett said.

The experiences were at times confronting for a 15-year-old and Ms Barrett recalls fainting on more than one occasion.

"It took a little while to get used to the sights,” she said.

Through the years, MsBarrett has worked with 25 doctors in Warwick and has seen generations of patients through the clinic.

"It's the job satisfaction that has kept me in this line of work,” she said.

"It's very rewarding when you actually give that person the appointment they need and things work out best for the patient.”

Theresa Barrett (centre) and fellow reception staff at the Condamine Medical Centre.
Theresa Barrett (centre) and fellow reception staff at the Condamine Medical Centre. Marian Faa

Another highlight was her close relationship with Dr Barbara Odea, who started a new practice in Warwick in 1988.

Dr Odea, who sadly passed away in 1994, was supportive of Ms Barrett as a young mother and would help her juggle the two demanding jobs by letting her bring the kids to work when they were sick.

Ms Barrett said it was hard to believe how much had changed over half a century, and remembers when computers first came in to the office in 1992.

Warwick's approach to health has changed dramatically, and people are much more invested in preventative health.

"You used to only ever come in when you were sick, but now people are more proactive with getting check ups and seeing their doctors regularly,” she said.

But 50 years on and MsBarrett has retained the same compassion and work ethic the whole way through according to Condamine Medical Centre doctor Lynton Hudson.

"She has an encylopedic knowledge of the town, always knew who was related and that's so important in an industry like this,” Dr Hudson said.

That's not to say being a medical receptionist hasn't had it's challenges - deciphering doctors' handwriting being one - but Ms Barrett said it was hard to walk away.

Theresa Barrett retires after fifty years of service as a medical receptionist for the Warwick community. She will be missed at the Condamine Medical Centre.
Theresa Barrett retires after fifty years of service as a medical receptionist for the Warwick community. She will be missed at the Condamine Medical Centre. Marian Faa

However with grandchildren and new hobbies keeping her busy, it hardly feels like retirement.

Ms Barrett plans to enjoy leisure activities like pilates, gardening and travelling, while spending lots of time with her family, of course.

With 12 receptionists now on staff at Condamine Medical Centre, Ms Barrett is leaving the practice in good hands.

Some of the wisdom she's gathered in her decades on the job include treating your colleagues like your customers and always giving your best no matter the task.



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