Gail Corbett, Guru Singh and Barbara Turnbull were amongst Red Cross nurses from across 22 countries announced as medal winners on May 12 – Florence Nightingale’s birthday which is celebrated as International Nurses Day. The medals recognise “exceptional courage and devotion to victims of armed conflict or natural disaster” and also “exemplary service or a pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education.

The Kiwi trio bring to 31 the Florence Nightgale medals awarded to New Zealand nurses.  The first medal was presented in 1920 to the indomitable Hester Maclean who was Matron in Chief of the first New Zealand Army Nursing Service that sailed out in 1915 to serve from Gallipoli to the Western Front during the First World War.

Gail Corbett of Levin, whose Red Cross posts have included Gaza, Somalia, iraq and Afghanistan, was awarded her medal for her service for Red Cross in conflict situations and in the area of public health. She has been praised for her “incredibly gutsy and difficult” work in Gaza. Before working internationally for Red Cross, she specialised as a neonatal nurse.

Wellington nurse Guru Dev Singh, spent 18 months working West Africa including working as a Safe and Dignified Burial Co-ordinator during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-15, was awarded for her service with the  Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in disaster and conflict situations and in the area of public health. She has also worked in Gaza and Iraq and before working overseas used her to skills during New Zealand emergencies as a member of Red Cross’ emergency response team.

The third nurse Barbara Turnbull of Dunedin, currently working in Afghanistan, has served in war-torn Afghanistan before along with northwest Pakistan, North Korea and the Democratic Republic of Congo and was awarded her medal for her active work with the Red Cross in situations of conflict and in the area of public health and nursing education. Her international work has included everything from training local staff to treating people wounded by suicide bomb attacks.

New Zealand Red Cross acting Secretary General Alice Montague says the three nurses are thoroughly deserving recipients of the Florence Nightingale Medal.

“Barbara, Guru and Gail have shown extraordinary courage through their work, inspiring all of us here at New Zealand Red Cross. We’re proud to help them recognise their humanitarian efforts by celebrating this award.”

Jane MacGeorge, nursing and professional services manager for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation congratulated the three describing them as outstanding New Zealanders. “Their courage and bravery make the profession proud,” she said. “Their huge commitment to humanity by working on the other side of the world in areas of conflict is exceptional.”

Medal recipients are nominated by their respective National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society and selected by a commission comprised of the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Council of Nurses.

The three will be officially presented with the Florence Nightingale Medal at an investiture ceremony later this year.


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