There’s not often a chance I get to write something positive about nursing lately. What with pay, pensions, nursing shortages, budget cuts and Brexit, I sometimes feel like my keyboard will lose the ability to frame joyful sentences.
We should not forget that nursing is a joyous role, and one that many in the profession still feel proud to be a part of. Last week, Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital announced its Nightingale nurses – an award to be given to nurses who are among the London trust’s “brightest and best”. The award will recognise the role nurses play in innovating to improve services, professional practice and care.
Some people are critical that the profession still harks back to a role model who died over 100 years ago, but I disagree and think that such a view might be missing the point.
The godmother of nursing was and shall always be Florence Nightingale, and her words and her work still illuminate modern nursing as much as her lamp did during the Crimean War. We should be proud of our nursing heritage and boast about it.
But it is the nurses who every day provide care and put their patients first who make this innovation a reality
But this proud history should not prevent us from acknowledging the contribution made by contemporary nurses, and that is exactly what Dame Eileen Sills and her team at Guy’s and St Thomas’s have done with this award.
The trust’s Nightingale Academy, which provides a platform for innovation, practice and service development in clinical nursing and midwifery, underpins the work of the nursing family there. But it is the nurses who every day provide care and put their patients first who make this innovation a reality. It is right we should pay tribute to their expertise, knowledge and talent.
I was lucky enough to hold one the trust’s new Nightingale badges last week, and I can tell how much that would mean to nurses who earn it. It is a substantial accolade, embellished with Florence’s image. This honour will make people aspire to be a nurse, aspire to be a Nightingale nurse and feel proud of doing their best work.
That pride and that aspiration has become sadly missed in all the coverage of falling nursing student entry figures and qualified nurses dropping off the register while their colleagues struggle to find time to care.
In this sea of sad and bad times for the profession, it is a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate what good nurses are and what they can do. We should never stop doing that.