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|ACNL in Action|
ACNL in Action
Ellen Dougherty, the First Registered Nurse in the World
By: Marilyn Stephens, MSN, MBA, RN
Ellen Dougherty was born on September 20, 1844 at Port Underwood, New Zealand. Ellen was inspired to be a nurse after learning about Florence Nightingale. It is believed that before nurse training, she worked with Charles Barraud in his Wellington pharmacy. Ellen completed a certificate in nursing in 1887 at Wellington Hospital. In 1893 she accepted a post as matron of Palmerston North Hospital.
These were the days before antibiotics, and hospitals required large supplies of linen to help prevent infection. She wasted no time in organizing sewing groups with her relatives to sew sheets, pillow-cases and bandages. The hospital was near a saw mill, and accidents were common and doctors not always available. Ellen would set broken limbs, dress wounds and sometimes even amputate an arm or leg. She ran the hospital’s dispensary, and in 1899 was formally registered as a pharmacist and became head of the hospital’s accident and surgery ward. Ellen gained certificates with distinction in nursing.
In September 1901 New Zealand became the first country to have separate legislation for the registration and regulation of nurses. When the Nurses Registration Act became law in January 1902, nurses who had already trained could apply to have their names entered on the register. Ellen Dougherty was the first to be registered on January 10, 1902. She was the first Registered Nurse in the World. Ellen was greatly admired for her work, dedication and love for nursing. She passed away November 3, 1919 and rests in peace at Clareville Cemetery, Carterton, Wairarapa, New Zealand.