Elle and Mark: 37 years of friendship and counting!

For many nurses and midwives, the friendships you make with colleagues can be an integral component of support throughout your career. The bond forged by shared experiences and outlooks can be wonderful in helping celebrate the highs, laughing through challenging or absurd situations and commiserating the lows.


elle and mark

In honour of this we wanted to celebrate the role of friendship in nursing and midwifery, For this years International Day of Friendship we are really privileged to share a very special story of friendship that has lasted almost 4 decades and counting, here is Elle and Mark’s story as told by each of them.

My friend Mark – By Elle Brown

I met Mark when I was a very new registered nurse and he was a first year student. I was drawn, like many others, to his joyful generosity and abundant humanity, his graciousness. Our friendship has endured over many years, sometime our jobs have coincided at other stages it has followed vastly different paths – but we have always stayed in touch.

Where it all began

On the ward where we first met, we cared for a man with chronic lung disease. Mark told me he had reassured the man he would care for his dog if anything happened to him. I asked Mark if he knew that the man was terminally ill. He was taken aback but said he would not abandon his promise about the dog.

Within the fortnight the man passed away and he was sought out by the man’s sister and took ownership of the dog. That dog had a charmed existence despite having a few behavioural issues. I think this is a perfect example of how Mark not only displays the values of steadfastness and loyalty but inhabits them to his very core. He also has a wicked sense of style and boundless curiosity.

A greater purpose

As well as his kindness and compassion for the people he cared for, he has always had a passion for the welfare and health of the carers. Early in his career this was demonstrated by being an ANMF job representative during the 1986 Nurses Strike in Victoria.

In the early 90s we gained a post graduate certificate in Critical Care and I found my niche and Mark explored many opportunities with passion and curiosity. Mark has worked in Sexual Health, as a Director of Nursing and has worked in a variety of roles in Aged Care.

Support through the ups and downs

Mark has provided support, humour and guidance to me at important points in my career. I think I have cried with laughter more times in the presence of Mark than any other person. We have danced our way through many a party and spent moments in reflection and contemplation. I have been fortunate to meet and know many inspirational nurses and midwives; they have all generously given me their wisdom, time, and support.

To find a friend at work is a privilege and a gift. Working at Nurse and Midwife Support with Mark is rewarding and inspiring. Having a friend at work is positive for your mental health, enabling connection, trust, and unity of purpose.

It is valuable to give and receive support from a person who understands your work landscape, personal connections, and values. There is a definite enhanced engagement with a workplace if you have one great friend within the organization, time flies, breaks shared are better and the opportunity for an immediate debrief/vent can help you process the event and share strategies for the future.

From mentor to friend, my long and treasured nursing friendship with Elle – By Mark Aitken

I cannot remember a time in my nursing career when Elle was not my friend. Our 4-decade friendship has supported, sustained, and comforted me throughout my career. There have been many laughs and tears along the way as we have traversed our careers and lives while navigating the highs and lows.

We all need a friend that has our back. The person who gets you, someone you lean on and leans on you and who lends their ear in good times and bad. Elle is my nursing friend who does all that and so much more.

Friendship is about many things-at its core it is the person who listens without judgement, offers support, and provides unconditional care. It also helps when they crochet you a rug, bake you a cake and roar with laughter at your jokes! Elle is the best listener I know-intuitive, compassionate, thoughtful, and non-judgemental.

My first mentor

When I met Elle in 1984, I was on my second ward rotation-an enthusiastic, naïve, bright eyed, first-year student nurse at The Royal Melbourne Hospital. Elle was that standout registered nurse who had me at hello. I was drawn to Elle’s intelligence, willingness to share knowledge, and skills.

I admired her sharp geometric jet-black hair (remember, haircuts of the 1980s) and was drawn to her kindness. I soon learned that if I could not locate Elle to report a change in a patient’s condition or ask a question, I would find her with a patient- listening, observing, and quietly caring for them.

No question was too stupid, request for help refused or opportunity to educate students missed. Elle was my first professional mentor, this relationship led to our enduring friendship sustained by a love of nursing, passion for caring, joy of cooking (particularly cakes), big belly laughs and busting hilarious moves on a dance floor.

An incredible nurse and advocate

Elle is a natural nurse: intelligent, intuitive, compassionate, a keen observer-responsive to every need and change in a patient’s condition- advocating for them when they cannot do so for themselves.

It has been a privilege for me to work with Elle many times throughout our long careers. We studied critical care nursing together, worked on wards, in intensive care units and aged care facilities together. We have played cards (me badly), shared books we loved, debated, and discussed the issues of the day, drank a few cocktails, and sat on the 1986 picket line for far too long to improve conditions and support for nurses.


When I got the job at Nurse & Midwife Support, I phoned Elle to reconnect and share the exciting news that a service we had often wished for over the years was finally launching.

Elle and I had not caught up for a while and I knew intuitively we needed to talk. We picked up where we had left off, drank tea, ate cake, shared updates, stories, and tears. Elle had worked in Intensive Care for over 25 years, an area she loved, but was ready for a change.

We discussed career paths and the importance of support for nurses and midwives, and I suggested Elle consider applying for a position being advertised at Nurse and Midwife Support. I had no role in the recruitment, so I just had to wait and hope while it played out.

I was delighted when I heard from Elle that she had been successful in becoming part of the team! These days Elle is the senior clinician at NM Support, and I am privileged to work alongside her supporting nurses, midwives, and students. It is a joy and privilege to work with a friend.

We want to hear from you

I hope you have a special nurse/midwife friend you can lean on-perhaps you have several! A friend who supports you, has your back and is there for you, no matter what life throws your way.

In our upcoming newsletter we will be launching a story competition for other nurses and midwives to share their stories of friendship. There will be the opportunity to write or make a video about your friendship and have a chance to win some amazing prizes. So start having a think about your story and stay tuned for more details on how to enter soon.

If you need support

If you need support Nurse & Midwife Support is available 24/7, anonymous confidential and free no matter where you are in Australia just give us a call on 1800 667 877 or email us here.

Your friendships matter and we want to read about them!