Kathleen Keane, who has died aged 81, was the former chief education officer of An Bord Altranais, the Nursing Board, until her retirement in 1997.
The board, as the regulatory body for nurses and midwives in Ireland, relied on her leadership and direction in regulating both professions during a period spanning three decades.
Kathleen advised the board on setting standards for the curricula underpinning the education and training of nurses and midwives during a time when student nurses were apprentices employed in hospitals. She was responsible for the setting of examinations and organising the marking systems to determine qualifying standards. She was also active in reviewing systems of nurse education and training and contributed to the report on the “Future of Nurse Education and Training in Ireland”, which was published by An Bord Altranais in 1994.
In later years nurse and midwifery education would become a full-time student course accredited by the higher education institutions.
During Kathleen’s time, nurses and midwifes became fully self-regulatory and all branches of the professions were represented on the board. She, with other colleagues in the nursing and midwifery professions, through their work ensured that Irish nurses and midwives enjoyed an international reputation for excellence.
Up to her retirement, Kathleen represented Irish interests on the European Union advisory committees for nurses and midwives, which advised on the establishment of the European Union directive on qualifications for free movement. This ensured that standards for the education and training of nurses and midwives throughout the EU complied with agreed common criteria. She also represented Irish interests at meetings of the World Health Organisation and with the International Councils for Nurses and Midwives.
In a personal capacity, she was an active member of the Catholic Nurses Guild of Ireland and in 1982 was the first Irish nurse elected as world president of CICIAMS, the international Catholic committee of nurses. In 1986, before a gathering of 2,000 nurses from the five continents she was awarded a papal medal for her services to nursing. She was also editor of Irish Nursing News.
Kathleen’s work at home and abroad brought her into contact with many celebrities of church and state. She took it all in her stride and always acted with grace and ease.
The eldest of six girls, she was born in Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon. She undertook her early education locally – with the Sisters of Charity and as a boarder in the Dominican Convent, Cabra, in Dublin. She qualified as a nurse in Guy’s Hospital, London and achieved her midwifery qualification in Edinburgh. She achieved her nurse tutor’s qualification at University College Dublin.
In her early career Kathleen was employed as a nurse and midwife in the Rotunda hospital in Dublin and as a nurse tutor in Harcourt Street Children’s Hospital. She was a member of the former National Health Council and the board of the Faculty of Nursing of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland.
Socially, she enjoyed a reputation as a keen competitor in Dún Laoghaire Golf Club and was renowned for her card skills in numerous bridge clubs around Monkstown, where she lived. She was also a member of two bowling clubs.
Kathleen enjoyed great health. On the occasion of her retirement it was noted that she had never been absent from work because of sickness. Sadly a diagnosis she received in the past year was beyond her competitive powers and she passed away on June 29th.
She will be sadly missed by her sisters and their families, neighbours, by friends in the nursing and midwifery professions and by all those attached to the many clubs where she had membership. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.