When Whanganui woman Andrea Thornton graduated recently, she had a very special person walking with her across the stage - her daughter, Hannah Ratcliffe.

The two women have graduated from Massey University with Master of Nursing degrees.

Mrs Thornton has worked for the Whanganui District Health Board as a cancer nurse co-ordinator for three years, and before that worked in primary care.

Ms Ratcliffe is based in Palmerston North, and has been a nurse for five years.

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She worked at Christchurch Men's Prison for a year but moved back to the North Island following the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.

She now divides her time between the emergency department at Palmerston North Hospital and the health clinic at Linton Army Camp.

"Although we're both nurses, we have quite a different focus within nursing," said Mrs Thornton.

The pair come from a nursing family. Mrs Thornton's mother - now 82 and present at her daughter's and granddaughter's graduation - was a surgical nurse for many years.

Mrs Thornton's aunt was also a nurse, and her younger daughter is a veterinary nurse.

Mrs Thornton said she was delighted to be able to graduate with her daughter, although the pair had not planned to graduate together. "It was very special," she said.

Ms Ratcliffe, who went to Whanganui High School, said while she and her mother were never in the same classes during their studies, there were perks to studying the same degree.

"For example I had just done a pharmacology paper, and then she took it the semester afterwards, so just being able to discuss it was helpful."