Whittington honoured nationally and internationally.
The medal, instituted in 1912, is only awarded to 50 people around the world every two years. It is the International Committee of the Red Cross's highest nursing honour and is given to people who distinguish themselves in times of peace or war by showing exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled or to civilian victims of conflict or disaster. New Zealand Trained Nurses' Association's first president and Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand's founding editor, Hester Maclean, was one of 50 winners in 1920, after a gap during World War 1 when no awards were made. Whittington is the 23rd New Zealand nurse to be honoured.
Whittington was also made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2008 New Year Honours. She has undertaken three missions to Afghanistan with the Red Cross, both during and after the Taliban's rule. Her last mission to Kandahar began only months after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and consequently during a time of considerable tension and uncertainty.
The idea of working in a humanitarian role was first planted in Whittington's mind in 1987 during a trip to Nepal. While there, she visited Kunde Hospital, established with the support of Sir Edmund Hillary's Himalayan Trust. "The hospital and the work the people there were doing for the local community inspired me to come home and search out a humanitarian organisation where I could use my nursing skills to help make a difference. I have a strong belief in the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the work they do assisting victims of conflict."
When not on a humanitarian mission, Whittington works at Waitakere Hospital's emergency department. She is thoroughly enjoying being home, but may well consider accepting another Red Cross mission later this year.