Service in memory of nursing leader

A SERVICE of thanksgiving for the life of the "irreplaceable" woman who established the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland is being held on Sunday in Co Down.

Dr Mona Elizabeth Clara Grey OBE was also the first Chief Nursing Office at the Province's Department of health.

She passed away on May 27 at the age of 98.

Described by the RCN as "the most influential and inspirational nurse leader in the history of Northern Ireland", amongst her many achievements was the securing of better educational opportunities and improved pay for nurses, as well as an enhanced status for the profession.

Born in India in 1910, Dr Grey spent much of her childhood and young adult life here before training as a teacher and then travelling to England in 1933.

She then decided to train as a nurse and midwife at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, qualifying in 1938 and being appointed ward sister in 1939.

After working as Night Superintendent at the Royal London Hospital, Mona entered higher education and, in 1945, qualified in hospital training school administration.

It was at this point that her career brought her to Northern Ireland, being appointed as the first-ever salaried Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing.

In 1960, after having been awarded a World Health Fellowship to research nursing administration and community nursing, Mona was appointed as the first-ever government Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland.

She helped to modernise both the regulation of the profession and the management of nursing in Northern Ireland, as well as playing a significant role in the restructuring of the health and personal social services in 1973.

She was awarded the OBE in 1972, conferred as Honorary Vice-President of the Royal College of Nursing in 1996 and awarded the prestigious Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing in 2004.

She was also the inaugural recipient of the RCN Northern Ireland Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 and a professorial chair between the University of Ulster, and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust was named in Mona's honour as a further recognition of her inestimable value as a member of the nursing community.

In acknowledgement of Mona's contribution to the advancement of the art and science of nursing, the University of Ulster awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in 1999.

Paying tribute to Dr Grey, RCN Northern Ireland Director Janice Smyth described her as an "inspiration" and "irreplaceable".

She added: "Mona's life and career was characterised by selfless service and outstanding achievement, often in the face of adversity, and always with wisdom, compassion and a great sense of humour and humanity."

Sunday's service will be held at 3.30pm in St Mary's Church in Comber.