Vera Ellen: Hutt Hospital’s former principal nurse dies

June 1, 2021

Former principal nurse at Hutt Hospital, Vera Ellen, died in April, aged 94.

Ellen trained at Wellington Hospital, and worked in the United States, England, Whanganui and Hamilton, before taking up a role at Hutt Hospital in 1969 where she eventually became matron/principal nurse. Her role included giving Queen Elizabeth II a tour of the hospital in 1970.

She also hired Andrew Cameron in 1976, a nurse who went on to be awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal by the International Red Cross – nursing’s highest accolade. At the 2011 ceremony, Ellen said it had been rare for men to become nurses and she was breaking tradition in accepting him. “But Andrew knew what he wanted and was not afraid to seek that out.”

Ellen also served in the Royal New Zealand Nursing Corps as a lieutenant colonel from 1965-75. She was honoured in 2011 with a New Zealand Defence Service medal for her non-operational military work; and in 2012 with a Queens’ Service Medal for services to nursing.

After retiring from Hutt Hospital in 1987, Ellen successfully ran for the Wellington Area Health Board, serving from from 1989-1991.