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Suman Shrestha and Kerri Nuku

Exemplary nurses receive Human Rights and Nursing Award at international Exeter conference

Two nurses have received a prestigious award to recognise their outstanding contribution to human rights and care, at an international conference about ethics in care during COVID-19 hosted by the University of Exeter.

Suman Shrestha and Kerri Nuku are the winners of this year’s Human Rights and Nursing Awards. The awards are presented to two exemplary nurses each year, to give nurses visibility and celebrate their commitment and work to foster international respect for human rights and dignity of people everywhere in the world.

Suman Shrestha is a Consultant Nurse at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and Professional Lead for Critical Care at the Royal College of Nursing who has contributed significantly to the development of health and social care both in Nepal and the UK. He has led on initiatives in the management of sepsis in the UK and, on a voluntary basis, spearheaded the advancement of critical care and infection control in Nepal. Suman has also played a key role in response to the pandemic through the Royal College of Nursing to support the strategic redeployment of nurses into critical care locally and nationally.

Suman says: ‘It is a great privilege and honour to receive this prestigious award. I am blessed to be working with many amazing inspirational people who motivate me to continue my work. The recognition and fund will no doubt help expand my projects particularly in developing health care in Nepal where health care professionals are working tirelessly in extremely challenging conditions with limited knowledge and resources.’

Kerri Nuku is joint leader of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and being recognised for her contribution to human rights and equitable care with particular reference to indigenous nurses and the wider Māori community. Her career has been driven by concern about ethnic inequalities and she has a strong record of national and international accomplishments through her roles as advocate, activist and researcher.

Kerri said: “As an Indigenous woman, I am honoured to be acknowledged by my peers for this award. It is a true privilege that recognises not only my work, but the work of many of our Indigenous people who continue the fight for equality, freedom of rights and justice. I would like to acknowledge the donors who make such awards possible and the University of Exeter for your generosity and tolerance.

“I am merely a representative for this moment as I stand on the shoulders of many great warriors who forged a pathway that gives many like me the courage and resilience to go further. Our Kuia and Kaumātua, whānau, Iwi katoa, stand in solidarity to fight for a future where our mokopuna (grandchildren) are free to aspire to be whatever and proudly stand as Māori.

“As nurses and healthcare workers we see first-hand the gross and ongoing injustices of colonisation through Indigenous peoples’ over-representation in negative health statistics and the structural discrimination and institutional racism that we face.

“As Māori nurses, we also experience that discrimination and injustice and have survived by living in two worlds. We have learned to live in contradiction while we work for social justice and the health and wellbeing of Māori. And for me, this award recognises that to continue this work we can and must be proud of who we are and know that as we honour our ancestors we are guided toward a better world.”

The awards are run by the Nursing Ethics journal and include a significant financial reward. All nominations were reviewed by a selection panel of Editorial Board members.

The award ceremony is a highlight of the 21st International Nursing Ethics Conference and the 6th International Care Ethics Conference, on 2nd and 3rd September. The online-event focusses on ethical responses to the challenges that the pandemic has posed to nurses, doctors and other care-givers in health and social care, locally and internationally.

Professor Ann Gallagher, Head of Nursing at the University of Exeter and Editor-in-Chief Nursing Ethics, said: “It’s a privilege to host the awards at our conference at the University of Exeter this year. The ceremony enables us to celebrate the contributions of nurses to human rights and the flourishing of individuals, families and communities everywhere in the world. Suman and Kerri are excellent role models for student nurses and care-givers globally and show us what can be achieved when nurses are committed to human rights. We are grateful to the anonymous donors who contribute to the awards, making it possible for the recipients to progress their important work.”

For more highlights of the conference, please visit and follow #COVIDEthicsExeter.

Date: 2 September 2021

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