Florence Nightingale Foundation Students' Day - a moving reminder
Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Christie Roberts recently attended the Florence Nightingale Foundation's student event. From her account here, it sounds like a fascinating and emotional event.
On the 9th of May, I was lucky enough to attend a student day held in London by the Florence Nightingale Foundation. This event was to celebrate Florence Nightingale's 198th birthday (12th May - now also recognised as International Nurses' Day) and commemorate the achievements of everyone working in Nursing and Midwifery across the UK.
It was very moving and reminded all of us of how privileged we are to be receiving a nursing education.
Representatives from around 100 universities across the UK attended. The day began at St Thomas' Hospital, where Florence Nightingale established the 'Nightingale Home and Training School for Nurses' in 1860, and ended with a beautiful service in Westminster Abbey. It was attended by current, future, and past nurses and midwives.
The Foundation describe themselves as 'a living memorial to Florence Nightingale'. Amongst other activities, each year they offer scholarships to the 'very best at what they do'. These scholarship help develop leadership skill and improve patient and health outcomes.
The morning consisted of a question and answer session with leaders in nursing and midwifery practice. Themes included the importance of continuing professional development (CPD); students acting as champions in clinical and research areas and the impact that our voices can have on shaping education and policy; how to address stereotypes and attitudes within and outside of nursing, including the gender gap within healthcare and the belief that a nurse is 'just a nurse'; privatisation of the National Health Service; and how to achieve parity of esteem between mental and physical healthcare, and make it more than just a policy tagline.
This session was incredibly informative, and gave everyone a lot of food for thought. We left ruminating on what it means to be a nurse or midwife, and the importance of continuing to learn, lead and advocate using 'head, hands and heart' once qualified.
This was followed by tours of the Florence Nightingale museum and the chapel at St Thomas'. These were led by Northern Irish nurses who trained at St Thomas' just after WWII. They had many stories to tell, and were very interested to compare our experiences of nursing education to theirs.
Around 5pm, we departed for Westminster Abbey. The service was incredibly empowering and thoughtful; it gave everyone time to reflect on why they went into healthcare, why they remain, and where they wish to take healthcare in the future. The service also included the passing of a lantern (an international symbol of nursing) between Florence Nightingale Scholars. This was to represent the 'transmission of knowledge from one nurse to another and highlight the diversity of care given by nurses for the benefit of humanity'. It was very moving and reminded all of us of how privileged we are to be receiving a nursing education.
I felt very honoured to have been chosen to attend this powerful event and I know that I will never stop feeling proud to be a nurse; even when challenges seem to appear everywhere, it is important to remember the words and teachings of great nurses like Florence Nightingale.