We were delighted when the World Health Organisation declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, commemorating 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale. Nightingale not only pioneered modern nursing, but also palliative care nursing.
Although the Covid-19 virus has muted these celebrations, you could argue that the outbreak has given nurses a greater public profile than ever. However, despite being at the forefront of care, the vital role of nurses in end of life care is frequently overlooked and so we decided to champion their contribution.
Whilst Covid-19 forced the cancellation of our national conference to Celebrate Nursing in 2020, we instead hosted a series of vlogs and webinars to celebrate and encourage innovation in nursing. We also launched a virtual community of pioneering nurses from across the world. In addition to celebrating these individual nurses, we will be collaborating with them to develop a new model of nursing for end of life care. You can read more at www.stchristophers.org.uk/pioneering
Meanwhile, both Florence Nightingale and our founder, Dame Cicely Saunders, remain outstanding innovators with much to teach us. We asked our Joint Chief Executive, Heather Richardson, and Consultant Nurse, Anne Nash, to reflect on these two pioneers.
Nightingale’s emphasis on an environment which supports patients both physically and psychologically, and her determination to make patients comfortable and include their families in care, remain key to good end of life care more than 100 years after her death
Heather, who is a registered general and mental health nurse, says, “Florence Nightingale found her vocation serving as a leader and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War when she organised care for wounded soldiers on the front line. Nightingale’s emphasis on an environment which supports patients both physically and psychologically, and her determination to make patients comfortable and include their families in care, remain key to good end of life care more than 100 years after her death.
“You could argue that during the Covid-19 outbreak nurses here and elsewhere have been working in a situation not dissimilar to Nightingale’s. It has certainly been physically, emotionally and psychologically demanding, over weeks and months, as the numbers of patients needing help has risen. And yet, like Nightingale, I’m proud to see that so many are flourishing as compassionate and courageous nurses, who also help train others to care for dying people.”
Anne has worked at St Christopher’s since 1991, when she worked alongside Dame Cicely Saunders just before her retirement.
Anne says, “Dame Cicely also began nursing during the war, and as her career progressed, she was troubled by how badly people were looked after as they were dying. In many ways Dame Cicely was an entrepreneur. Someone with an exceptionally clear vision, she had excellent networking skills and the determination needed to make her vision and her ambitions for St Christopher’s, a reality.
“In person, Dame Cicely was quiet and reflective with a focus on detail, but she certainly wasn’t aloof. She had a good sense of humour, and when she sat down to lunch with you, she always asked how you were, and was interested in you personally.”
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