Having a clear out at home a few weeks ago I came across an old jewellery box, a Christmas present from my parents some 35 years ago.
The ballet dancer no longer goes round as the key to turn it was lost years ago. Inside was a load of rubbish; earrings without a matching pair, a couple of old bangles, some fake pearls… but at the bottom was my hospital badge.
Finding it brought back fantastic, happy, memories of learning to be a nurse. I trained at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith in the 1980s, and the hospital badge complete with military style ribbon was one of the most distinctive in London. I am happy to argue this point!
I was so proud as a newly qualified staff nurse to get my medal, bringing with it a sense of belonging, achievement and also history.
And the story behind the hospital badge tradition is fascinating – each is unique and personally special to the nurses who wore it.
I recently came across a wonderful article by Sue Sullivan, who explains the history of the Charing Cross medal. She says, “It is rumoured that the bronze metal was from a cannon captured in the Crimean war. The ribbon attached is supposedly from the Colonel in Chief of the Household Brigade, who was thrown from his horse and taken to the hospital. In order to show his gratitude for his nursing treatment, he asked Queen Victoria for the right of nurses at the hospital to wear the ribbon of the regiment.”
Good story, but do badges have any relevance to nurses today?
If I am honest I’m not sure.
I stopped wearing mine in practice as it used to hit patients, often in the face. Some trusts now advise staff not to wear badges for a variety of infection prevention and health and safety reasons. Perhaps moving nurse training away from hospitals to academic institutions, with their own system of honours and awards has made them obsolete. Are they are just part of a bygone age, in which hats, cuffs and aprons kept us in our place? Should they be consigned to the history book as an interesting novelty? Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Mine is back in the box with fond memories. Secretly I am very proud to own it.