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Florence Nightingale Medal ceremony

Issue date: 
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, CVO, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.

As patron of Red Cross New Zealand, I am delighted to welcome you here for this Florence Nightingale Medal ceremony.

Tonight we are acknowledging the commitment and dedication of three very special people. To help us do that, I would like to invite Dr Jenny McMahon, National President of Red Cross, to come forward and read the citations.


Florence Nightingale Citations 2018

The Florence Nightingale Medal was established in 1912, by the 9th International Conference of the Red Cross, in memory of the distinguished services of Florence Nightingale towards the improvement of the care for the wounded and sick.  

It is presented to Red Cross and Red Crescent nurses and voluntary nursing aides who have distinguished themselves by their exceptional dedication in times of peace or war.

The Florence Nightingale Medal is the highest distinction a nurse can achieve, it is awarded “for exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of a conflict or disaster” or “exemplary services or a creative and pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education”

Up to 50 Florence Nightingale medals are awarded worldwide every two years and today these three worthy recipients will become the 28th, 29th and 30th  New Zealand nurses to be honoured with the medal. 

It is an honour for me, on behalf of the New Zealand Red Cross to congratulate the recipients of the Florence Nightingale Medal in 2017: Gail Corbett, Guru Dev Singh, and Barbara Turnbull.

Gail Corbett

Before Gail became a New Zealand Red Cross delegate- specifically to support ICRC with her nursing and hospital management experience – she had spent many years as a neonatal nurse in intensive care units at hospitals in Christchurch and Wellington, as well as in Scotland. Gail first deployed to Iraq in January 2010, and then completed a 2nd short mission there towards the end of the same year. For her first mission with ICRC in Najaf, Iraq Gail received an excellent appraisal, which noted that “Considering the harsh conditions, the place of women in this society, the poor base from which she had to build, having no handover from a previous ICU nurse, and the almost overwhelming needs and constant obstacles in the path of this project, Gail made a strong contribution to the project. As a first mission delegate, she performed earnestly and tirelessly and [ICRC] thank her for this… wish to thank her for her hard work, her vigilance and her dedication in raising the standards of care in the ICU of Al Sadr Medical City.” These comments Illustrate the impressive start to  Gail’s international career with ICRC, through secondment from the New Zealand Red Cross. Currently Gail is seconded to the ICRC in Kandahar, Afghanistan and has travelled home especially for this investiture.

Guru Dev Singh

Since Guru graduated from nursing school in the 1990s, she was immediately involved in Red Cross activities through the New Zealand Red Cross, initially through the domestic emergency response team as an assistant team leader, and then Leader of the Emergency Response group. After several years working overseas providing remote care in Western Australia, and as a senior staff nurse and educator in Alice Springs among other roles, Guru returned to New Zealand where she was recruited by the New Zealand Red Cross. Guru was first seconded to work for the ICRC in Northern Iraq, and then Gaza. From 2014-2016 Guru worked for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in Africa. It is primarily her work in Africa- providing guidance to IFRC country and regional offices, which single Guru out for this award. Guru worked tirelessly through the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and in training the Liberian Red Cross in Dead Body Management/Safe and Dignified Burials. Guru has been described in appraisals as compassionate, with perseverance and strong worth ethic. October 2017 saw Guru deploy as Health Coordinator to the population movement response in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

 Barbara Turnbull

Barbara has worked as a humanitarian delegate since 1990, first as a volunteer for two years at St Marys Hospital,Vunapope, Papua New Guinea, where she taught young student nurses. Later, for a year Barbara worked with VSA as a nurse tutor in Bonda Mission Hospital, Zimbabwe. In 2008 Barbara fulfilled her dream of working for the Red Cross when as a New Zealand Red Cross staff member on loan to the ICRC, she was deployed to work for six months as an Operating Theatre Nurse at Jalalabad Public Health Hospital, Afghanistan. It was noted by her line-manager there that Barbara was ideal for such work. Barbara has now completed four tours in Afghanistan, as OT nurse, Head nurse and Hospital Project Manager .Barbara continues to have a naturally quiet and kind nature toward her patients; she has a very effective way of dealing with situations in the more dire of circumstances. Barbara’s latest appraisal from her tenth mission as staff on loan to the ICRC spoke of her “good spirit and friendly nature”, this is very true of Barbara. A dedicated New Zealand Red Cross delegate, Barbara will commence a 12 month mission to Bangladesh this May. Barbara wishes to acknowledge the support from NZRC and her family that enables her to do this work and the wonderful members of the teams she has been privileged to work with over the years .

What stands out about these delegates who have provided service during conflict and disasters is their curiosity about people, their fortitude, resilience, courage and strength, and open willingness to collaborate and cooperate with others. I don’t need to mention the characteristic of an unfailing sense of humour that is synonomous with these three and all our delegates.

New Zealand Red Cross couldn’t be prouder of its delegates, and these nures who play such an important role in responding to the world’s worst health crises.

Our sincere congratulations.


It is a privilege to acknowledge the contribution of our three newest Florence Nightingale Medal recipients.

They are now part of a very select group. As we heard earlier, Gail, Guru and Barbara are three of only thirty New Zealand nurses to have received this honour. Each of you is to be commended for your dedication and for your courageous spirit.

It takes a very special person to put their hand up for assignments like the ones you have undertaken. Working conditions are as different from New Zealand clinical settings as they could possibly be. Conditions are harsh and danger is an everyday reality. Roles of these nature also require sacrifice in terms of spending time away from family and loved ones. It’s hard, challenging work.

Balancing that, however, is the pleasure of a job well done and the gratification that comes from making a difference in people’s lives. What you do is nursing at its finest.

I commend you for your commitment to helping others and for your compassion. You are true humanitarians.

Florence Nightingale once wrote “For the sick, it is important to have the best.” She was talking not just about medicine and equipment, but of the sort of people she wanted as nurses. You embody her vision and can feel proud of what you have, and continue to, achieve.

I thank you again for your contribution to the wellbeing of others and for upholding the values and dignity of nursing.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa

Last updated: 
Thursday, 15 March 2018

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