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Jane Bell, OBE, was born on a farm in Scotland in 1873. After her parents and four of her siblings died of tuberculosis, Jane and her remaining siblings emigrated to Australia. She trained in nursing, and today is highly regarded for her contribution to the development of the nursing profession, both nationally and internationally.
Jane pioneered innovative changes in nursing education, the promotion of post-graduate nursing qualifications, salaries and working conditions and the raising of nursing standards. In 1917 Jane established the Past Trainees Association (the forerunner of The Royal Melbourne Hospital Graduate Nurses' Association) and in 1937 she was selected to represent Australian nurses at the International Congress of Nursing held in London, a great honour.
Jane received several military medals for her wartime nursing leadership in 1914-1915 and received an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (obe) in 1944. In Victoria, Jane became the longest serving Lady Superintendent of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, (1910 to 1934). During her tenure, she created the position of "theatre sister" in 1912, was appointed the first 'sister tutor' in an Australian hospital in 1921, established the Nurses "Preliminary Training School in 1927 and created the first" special diet kitchen' in an Australian hospital in 1929.
Jane recognised the importance of nurses having a broad range of clinical and educational experiences. As early as 1933 Jane made approaches to the University of Melbourne to have them conduct postgraduate diploma courses for nurses. These courses were eventually introduced in 1996.
Jane was a foundation member of the Nurses'Board of Victoria, and helped form the Royal Australian Nursing Federation. She was also instrumental in the introduction of state registration for nurses in 1924.
Jane served twice as President of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses' Association (later the Royal Victorian College of Nursing) and on her retirement in 1934, became an Honorary Life Governor of the Royal Melbourne Hospital where she died in 1959 aged 86.