Obituary: Marjorie Gardener

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The Independent Culture
THE MODERN specialist nurse - the nurse with in-depth knowledge of intensive care, sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes or other aspects of illness - is to a large extent a product of the pioneering work of Marjorie Gardener. She was a talented amateur musician who did not intend to be a nurse - she wanted to be a doctor, but the death of her father meant there was no money for medical school. So she trained as a teacher at London University and became a licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music.

However she took a lateral turn to a second career as near as possible to her first ambition. She entered the Middlesex Hospital as a mature student and gained the Gold Medal as the best student of her year. She qualified as a midwife at the Sussex Maternity Hospital, Brighton.

Always a devoted Christian - first a Baptist, she later became a Methodist - she worked for a period in a missionary hospital in Tiberias, starting a lifetime interest in the history of the ancient Middle East. Returning to Britain as a ward sister she took a course in nursing administration and became an assistant matron at the Middlesex, leaving to be an inspector of nurse-training schools for the General Nursing Council of England and Wales. Her views could be conventional - she expressed surprise to a ward sister that a male enrolled nurse was taking part in the nursing of female patients on a mixed ward.

In other respects she was ahead of her time and, when doctors and nurses came together in a Joint Board of Clinical Nursing Studies, she was appointed its first principal officer. Before it was established there were many specialist post-registration courses for nurses but no central setting of standards. Backed by a nurse, Baroness McFarlane of Llandaff, and a doctor from the department of health, Dame Albertine Winner, among the board members, Gardener set about the rationalisation of post-registration continuing education for nurses. She always had an eye on the practical as well as the academic.

For her services to the development of clinical nursing practice and the promotion of high standards of nursing care she was appointed OBE in the Queen's Silver Jubilee honours and the Royal College of Nursing elected her a Fellow in 1977, the year she carried out a consultancy on continuing nurse education for the World Health Organisation.

Until nursing duties prevented her, Marjorie Gardener was a member of the Bach Choir. On retirement she shared a home with her long-standing friend Joy Bellimore, also a senior nurse administrator.

Marjorie Grace Gardener, nurse, educationist and administrator: born London 22 February 1918; OBE 1977; died Sevenoaks, Kent 21 November 1999.