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Honouring a life of concern for nurses' welfare.

LESS THAN two months before her death, former NZNA executive director Thelma Burton was in the media spotlight fronting NZNO's Fair Pay Campaign launch. She was photographed in the Dominion Post on September 19 signing and posting the first of 50,000 postcards to Finance Minister Michael Cunen, calling for more funding for nurses' and midwives' salaries. It was a measure of the woman that her almost life-long concern for the welfare of nurses continued almost to her death.

Burton, who received an MBE for her services to nursing in 1976 and NZNA's Award of Honour in 1986, died in November in Wellington in her 88th year. Born in Wellington in 1916 and the youngest of five siblings, she held a wide variety of nursing positions between 1947 when she trained and registered as a nurse at the Timaru Hospital School of Nursing and her retirement in 1976. She trained as a midwife, received her post graduate Diploma of Nursing in 1950 and became registered matron at St Helen's Hospital in Auckland in 1955. She was nurse instructor at the Post-graduate School for Nurses and a member of the Nurses' and Midwives' Board. In 1959, she was awarded the prestigious British Commonwealth Nurses' Memorial Fund Scholarship and studied for the Certificate of Hospital Administration at London's Royal College of Nursing. In 1962, she was appointed nurse adviser to the Health Department in Wellington. Her career culminated with her appointment as executive director of NZNA in 1968.

Nursing was not her entire life. She was a very committed member of the Catholic Church and of the Catholic Women's League, the co-founder of Pregnancy Help in 1976, becoming its first national president, and the first holder of the South Island Women's double table tennis championships in 1937. Her family and friends remember her as living a full life and one of selfless service to others. Former NZNA nurse adviser Shona Carey, who worked for Burton and succeeded her as executive director, remembers her working many hours above and beyond the call of duty to advance the education and status of nurses.
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Title Annotation:news and events
Publication:Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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