Printer Friendly

Nursing head achieved major education reforms.

For 12 years--from 1966 till 1978--Shirley Bohm (nee Lowe) held the most senior nursing position in New Zealand and was the most senior woman in a male-dominated public service. Registered as a general nurse at Dunedin in 1948, Bohm gained qualifications in obstetrics and midwifery, spending 1957 studying at Columbia University in New York. She was matron of Dunedin's Parkside Hospital and then principal tutor of the Otago Hospital Board's nursing school before being shoulder tapped for a job in the Health Department's health research and planning unit in Wellington.

Appointed Division of Nursing director four years later, and supported by Director-General of Health Douglas Kennedy, who was regarded as a crusader for the reform of the health services, Bohm set out to ensure the best possible nursing services for the health system of the country. She restructured the Division of Nursing and sought out the top nurses to assist her. Under the leadership of these assistant directors, teams of nurse advisers spread out into the hospitals and community nursing services looking at every aspect of nursing. They prepared comprehensive reports for hospital boards, advising them of the improvements needed. Hospital schools of nursing received particular attention, as did shortcomings in available clinical experience and the quality of those teaching the apprenticed nurses who provided the bulk of nursing care in hospitals.

During this time, the Nurses' and Midwives' Board was part of the Nursing Division, with Bohm holding the position of nursing registrar. Gradually, Bohm untangled the roles of the registration authority, the Department of Health and the New Zealand Nurses' Association.

By 1972 Bohm had gained the support of key people in the Health Department and Government for the transfer of nursing education to general education. She was convinced it was not safe for New Zealanders to be receiving nursing care from apprentice nurses who were not fully trained, especially considering the increasing complexity of the work they were expected to do, largely without supervision from registered nurses. She also believed the separation of psychiatric, general and community nursing did not fit people's holistic nursing needs.

In 1972, Government approved the first two comprehensive nursing programmes at Wellington and Christchurch Technical Institutes. University nursing programmes were also started at Massey and Victoria Universities. At the same time, nursing services were reformed to prepare for the phasing out of the student work force and the establishment of new nursing structures for providing services with a qualified work force.

Change of this scale was unprecedented in the health service. However, Bohm's well researched case for change and her skilled advocacy gradually convinced people that change had to occur. Bohm retired in 1978, by which time the reforms she started were well entrenched. She retired to the Hawke's Bay, receiving an OBE in 1979, and kept a watching brief on the progress of the changes. She was delighted when, last year, public sector nurses gained salary increases commensurate with their role in today's health service, and during her recent hospitalisation expressed great satisfaction with the high quality of nursing care delivered by today's nurses. Bohm was a clear thinker and a woman of great strength, courage and determination. She was also an elegant woman with a warm and charming manner, and is remembered with admiration and affection by all those who knew and worked with her.

At a time when senior nurses were single women, most still living in nurses' homes, she defied tradition and married John Bohm in 1967 at the age of 45, becoming a proud mother and grandmother to his family. She remained active in her community and, until very recently, worked voluntarily at the Hastings Citizens Advice Bureau.

Bohm died in Hastings in February, aged 83.

Information provided by Margaret Bazley, Nan Kinross, Elsie Boyd, Jean Sutherland, Margaret Thompson and Joan Sullivan.
COPYRIGHT 2006 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2006
Previous Article:Nurse appointed as organiser in Hamilton.
Next Article:Conventions aim to build leadership skills and collective strength.

Related Articles
Working against poverty internationally and at home: the theme for International Nurses Day on May 12 is Nurses working with communities against...
Nurses celebrate a 30-year anniversary: a 'who's who' of nurse educators--past and present--gathered at Parliament's Grand Hall last month to...
Landmark conference for plunket nurses.
UCOL scores a New Zealand education first.
What value is nursing research?
NSU meets heads of schools.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters