Kiwi as

Writing these posts obviously requires a little research and the number of times New Zealand or a New Zealander is the first to do something is astounding. We all know about the vote for women being a world first, but what about the first in the world to have state registered nurses? Quote.

On 10 January 1902, the world?s first state-registered nurses had their names entered in the register. Topping the list was Ellen Dougherty of Palmerston North.

The training of nurses in New Zealand was initially rather ad hoc. During the 1880s, some hospitals began to offer training and accommodation onsite to attract more ?respectable? women into nursing. As more women entered the profession, there was increased demand for improved conditions for both nurses and their patients.

A major advocate for professional nursing in New Zealand was Grace Neill, Assistant Inspector in the Department of Asylums and Hospitals from 1895 until 1906. In 1899, Neill spoke at the congress of the International Council of Women in London. She called for a national system of registering trained nurses ? those who had passed a final exam set by an independent board after undergoing training.

After two years of campaigning, the Nurses Registration Act 1901 was enacted. Neill drafted the necessary regulations, defined the curriculum and appointed examiners.

On 10 January 1902 the first names were entered into the register, with that of Ellen Dougherty of Palmerston North at the top of the list.

For Dougherty?s case, registration was recognition of years of work. She had nursed from at least 1885, when she was employed at Wellington Hospital. After completing her certificate of nursing in 1887, she headed the accident ward and then the surgery ward before becoming acting matron by 1893. She was passed over for the permanent position, but Wellington?s loss was Palmerston North?s gain.

In 1897, she became the matron of the new hospital in Palmerston North, a particularly challenging role as the hospital was not yet fully set up and received many patients with gruesome injuries suffered in forestry and railway construction activities. Ellen Dougherty retired in 1908, aged 64. End quote.

NZ History

Here is a little more about her time in Palmerston North. Quote.

[…] On arrival she discovered very little had been done in the way of providing basic materials for the hospital and money was scarce. Her first concern was to ensure a sufficient supply of linen. In the days before antibiotics, hospitals required large supplies of linen to help prevent infection. Her first major act on assuming her post was to organise sewing bees with her relatives to sew sheets, pillow-cases and bandages.

As matron, Ellen Dougherty had the assistance of two nursing staff, whom she brought with her from Wellington, and two part-time medical officers. The nurses worked 12-hour shifts, and extra hours at need. The job was demanding. Palmerston North was then a centre for the construction of the North Island’s main trunk railway line, and for bush-clearing and saw-milling. Accidents were common and doctors not always available. Ellen Dougherty had to set broken limbs, dress wounds, and on occasions amputate an arm or a leg. She also ran the hospital’s dispensary, often staying at work until after midnight. In 1899 she was formally registered as a pharmacist. End quote.

Te Ara