International Perspective on SRN 1

Ellen Dougherty 1

It was so wonderful to see the life of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Matron and nursing regulatory reformer Ethel Bedford-Fenwick featured in the Spring 2023 edition of The Lamp. Her achievements were, and are, legendary but her lack of national and international recognition in the field of public protection and in promoting the practice and profession of nursing is woeful, so it is right that she is finally recognised by both the Worshipful Company of Nurses, and the Barts League of Nurses.

However, as amazing as her achievements were, SRN No 1 she wasn’t!

She was SRN No 1 in England & Wales but she wasn't SRN No 1

SRN No 1 was Ellen Dougherty (b1844-d1919) who was SRN No 1 some 17+ years earlier in New Zealand, in 1902. New Zealand was the first country in the world to register nurses, although the UK was the first to register midwives in 1902. Miss. Dougherty was Matron of Palmerston North Hospital, on New Zealand’s North Island.

Miss Dougherty was born in Cutters Bay, Port Underwood, New Zealand. She was inspired to become a nurse after reading about Miss Florence Nightingale, and trained at Wellington Hospital, graduating in 1887. In 1893 she became Matron of the new Palmerston North Hospital. She was also a registered Pharmacist from 1899.

Miss Dougherty retired in 1908. She is buried at Clareville Cemetery, Carterton, New Zealand. Her nursing badge (known as a medal in New Zealand) is in the Nurses Chapel at Wellington Hospital. The Nursing Council of New Zealand restored her grave in 2002.

The UK began nursing registration in 1919, the year Miss Dougherty died.

Palmerston North Hospital are proud to this day, that their former Matron was SRN No 1. A portrait of her adorns the hospital corridor and every RN in ‘Palmy’ understands the worldwide legacy of their hospital. They also have a museum.

Palmerston North Hospital continues to thrive today but with a medivac helicopter airport and advanced trauma emergency department as part of Health New Zealand.

Dickon Weir-Hughes

Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes, Freeman of the Worshipful Company is leadership development consultant to Palmerston North Hospital and former Chief Executive & Registrar, (UK) Nursing & Midwifery Council.