Jan Jenkins didn't want to receive the award for services to nursing at the International Nurses' Day Awards at Hawke's Bay Hospital yesterday.
"I didn't want it," she said with a bouquet of flowers in hand. "Nursing isn't about a person, it's about people, and I'm only one person."
But the 46 staff at Hawke's Bay Hospital who nominated the clinical charge nurse disagreed, and thought with nearly 40 years' experience Mrs Jenkins more than deserved it.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board director of nursing Chris McKenna said she "absolutely deserves" the award.
"Jan's contribution to nursing in Hawke's Bay is and has been incredible and the [difference to] lives she has touched has been truly amazing," she said.
The director of nursing also praised Mrs Jenkins' passion, enthusiasm, "excellent" clinical nursing and assessment skills, adding that she was a role model for direct care nursing and leadership.
Mrs Jenkins joined the hospital in 1963 and registered as a nurse in 1966. Apart from a stint in London and time away raising her three children, she had dedicated 36 years of her career, across a variety of roles, to Hawke's Bay.
"I love being a nurse," she said. "It's a ridiculous thing to say, but I always want to know what's in an ambulance and I always want to help them."
It is a well-timed honour for Mrs Jenkins, who intends to retire at the end of the year.
The annual awards were the pinnacle of the year for nurses and celebrated their profession and contribution to families and the community, she said.
The contribution of five other nurses, two from Hawke's Bay Hospital and three from the community, were also recognised yesterday.
Lisa Smith, who was involved with the nurse-led bowel management service, received an award for her innovation and support in a practice setting.
Maree Gladstone's award recognised excellence in clinical practice and celebrated in particular her leadership. Services to nursing for Maori were awarded to Sandra Corbett, for primary care to Tracey Morgan, and for aged care to Natalie Seymour.
Despite the individual awards, the success of the team effort was a common refrain among the award winners. Ms Seymour said, "It's only by working together that we're going to make a difference."