Kiwi Red Cross nurse awarded highest international nursing award

A New Zealand Red Cross nurse is "gobsmacked" after being awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal for her work in regions of conflict and political instability. 

Red Cross nurse Felicity Gapes has been awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal. Source: Red Cross

Felicity Gapes, a registered nurse since 1985, says the news of her being awarded the highest international nursing distinction came as a surprise.

"I was truly humbled and gobsmacked when I heard the news.

"It was so utterly unexpected. Like most nurses, for me I’m just doing my job and I feel privileged to be part of a team trying to provide the basics of healthcare to those affected by conflict," she said.

Ms Gapes has worked within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement since 2004 prompted by her experiences as part of peacekeeping missions with the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps in Bosnia and Timor-Leste and a disaster relief mission in Papua New Guinea.

Her Red Cross deployments have taken her to the Pacific, Somalia, South Sudan and Myanmar.

She has worked in clinic management, preventative health intervention, first aid training, monitoring health of people in detention and programme management. 

New Zealand Red Cross National President Kerry Nickels says Ms Gapes is a "dedicated and highly skilled nurse who is committed to helping vulnerable populations".

"Her compassion and courage while working in extremely complex and difficult situations is an inspiration to all of us at New Zealand Red Cross and we are incredibly proud to see this recognised."

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) awards the medal to nurses in recognition of exceptional courage and devotion to victims of armed conflict or natural disaster as well as exemplary service or a pioneering spirit in the areas of public health or nursing education. Ms Gapes is one of 29 nurses from 19 countries to be recognised this year.

Ms Gapes is the 32nd New Zealander to be awarded the medal in its 104-year history. She will be officially presented with the Florence Nightingale Medal at an investiture ceremony later in the year.