On Wednesday 9th May, I attended the annual Service to commemorate the life of Florence Nightingale at Westminster Abbey. It was, as always, a wonderful occasion and particularly so as I was joined this year not only by one of my senior nurse colleagues but also by my daughter Alex, who as some of you will know has recently graduated from RAF Halton and has now commenced a nursing degree with the Defence School of Health Care Studies at Birmingham City University. Alex had permission to attend this event and in her ‘number 1’ uniform, so it was a very proud occasion for us both.
We arrived early, and as we waited outside the Abbey a lady in the queue asked Alex where she was stationed. Alex explained that she is three weeks into her nursing career! It transpired that this lady undertook her nurse training in 1941 in Belfast and specialised in Orthopaedic nursing and was in fact a Matron before retiring. It was inspiring for Alex to chat with such an experienced nurse, a wonderful opportunity.
The Service was very moving and it was heart warming to see the Abbey full of hundreds of nurses, young and old, male and female, some wearing mufti and some wearing nurses’ uniforms, and many wearing military nursing uniforms from all three Services. The procession of the Roll of Honour, a book containing names of nurses and midwives who gave their lives during the Second World War and those in subsequent conflicts whilst caring for the sick and wounded, was carried by a Sergeant of the Princess Mary Royal Air Force Nursing Service, the Service Alex has joined.
We prayed for nurses everywhere and for the good work they do, carrying on the traditions and high standards set for us by Florence Nightingale who transformed not only nursing but set in place principles of health care which continue to this day. In her book ‘Notes on Nursing’ written in 1859, she set out the curriculum for nursing education and as a general introduction to nursing it is full of common sense rules, which remain just as relevant today. I gave a copy of ‘Notes on Nursing’ to Alex at the end of the ceremony to serve as an inspiring light on the profession she has just joined.
Director of Care & Service Development