I have lost count of how many times in recent weeks I have been moved to tears reading about the heroism of nursing colleagues battling to save lives, and care for people with coronavirus in both Health and Social Care.
For many nurses, this will be a career-defining experience and will form part of the rich narrative of their nursing journey. Nurses have a tendency to collect and hold on to ‘stories’: patients who have stuck in their minds for one reason or another; particularly difficult shifts where they have felt pushed to the edge; or a particular feeling of professional fulfilment where a meaningful moment has perhaps left a long-lasting impact. I believe many nurses feel they ‘have a book in them’.
So, in this year – a remarkable year where media attention has turned to doctors, nurses, carers, housekeepers and all staff involved in a caring role – the spotlight on nursing coincides with the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. In addition, we also now join together in professional solidarity to acknowledge and celebrate Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial with International Nurses Day on 12 May.
Royal Star & Garter celebrates International Nurses Day every year in our own, very creative ways. In one Home this includes one of our many marvellous volunteers dressed as Florence (carrying a lamp of course) with an entourage of willing residents who hand out gifts and ‘thank yous’ to all staff as her ‘Scutari Nurses’. In another, the Home Manager and other senior nurses have dressed as Florence and served lunch to residents and staff to say ‘thank you’.
Of course, this year will be different, but the invaluable work of our nursing teams will be acknowledged. As with every year, we salute not just the nurses who provide loving and expert care to our residents but to the care staff, the therapy teams, the housekeepers and administration staff – our whole family contributes to the well-being of our residents and never more than now have our values been lived and breathed.
Courage is at the very heart of the care we provide. Our staff have not wavered in their support of residents and each other, from covering for each other when some have needed to self-isolate to making sure residents’ particular needs are met; learning new skills and being willingly re-deployed into roles they wouldn’t normally undertake; to extending their hours; and bringing as much loving contact as possible to residents who are isolating in their rooms.
They also find time to help residents connect with their relatives who are missing their loved-ones terribly. They find creative ways to nourish the lives of residents by remembering still the importance of human connection, to sing and dance, be creative and playful as well as attend to the serious responsibilities required of them.
I also want to pay tribute to our amazing residents, who in true resilient spirit whilst living with the anxiety of these uncertain times, are coping with lockdown and in fact bringing joy to the staff, just by being themselves and caring about the people who support them.
I could not be more proud of the commitment and dedication demonstrated on a daily basis by my nursing colleagues who are managing the teams in the Homes. The importance of the whole family of staff, led by nurses, in working tirelessly to deliver exceptional care is a great source of pride for me, and my colleagues who are in supporting roles. Governors are also playing their part. They may not be part of what we are doing day-to-day, but we are in touch with them on a regular basis and they are fully supportive. As a nurse, I appreciate that the collective effort involved in providing exceptional care is a hallmark of the quality Royal Star & Garter is known and recognised for.
Seven years ago I had the privilege of attending Florence Nightingale’s Memorial Service at Westminster Abbey with my daughter, then an aspiring nursing student with the RAF (PMRAFNS). Fabulously, Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the service, and at the end he asked the congregation of nurses and nursing students from all over the UK and the world, to give a huge round of applause ‘for each other and for nurses everywhere’. How profound and precious that memory feels now, as I continue to applaud my colleagues in all caring and supportive roles. To my nursing colleagues and all staff of Royal Star & Garter, I applaud you – you are exceptional.