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It’s Nurses’ Day but nurses are outstanding all the time

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Part-way through a nursing and midwifery awards event at a prominent hospital and community trust in London today the organisation’s chair revealed who had won the prize for senior leadership.

The nurse who won was described as “an exceptional person with an amazing amount of resilience”, someone who “strives to do the best for her patients and her staff” and who “does not shy away from doing something different”.

After handing over the award, the chair noted that although the award had singled out a particular person, truthfully, all 5,500 nurses, midwives and health visitors working at the trust were leaders.

And as I sat in the audience and heard this, I thought he was right. But not only that; as I considered the description of the person who had won the leadership award at the trust, I realised that it could in fact fit the majority of nurses across the country. Because the job of a nurse is at a level that requires all of those things.

The event happened to be run by Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London – which is also today launching a new nursing and midwifery strategy and bringing back a “Nightingale Nurse” title to honour its most exceptional and pioneering staff. (The title is in honour of the pioneering nurse Florence Nightingale who established her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1859.)

When I asked the organisation’s chief nurse, Dame Eileen Sills, afterwards whether today’s events and the trust’s new nursing title made it unique compared to other organisations, she also was quick to note that you would be able to find nurses all over the country who would fit the bill.

“There are outstanding nurses and midwives up and down the country and all over the NHS.

“We’re not saying we are any different to anyone else, but we have an opportunity because of our history to be able to resurrect something from our past that we’ve lost – which is the Nightingale Nurse,” she told me.

On a day such as this one – International Nurses’ Day – that was a sentiment that rang particularly true. Exceptional nurses are everywhere. It is part of your job, regardless of where you work. Today is a moment for collective recognition, but your work is deserving of recognition year-round, prizes or not.

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