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'Do nurse badges have any relevance to nurses today?'

  • Comments (50)

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.

  • Comments (50)

Readers' comments (50)

  • i also trained in the late 70's and have my 'State Registered Badge' and also a badge produced by the hospitals 'School of Nursing'. My training was 'traditional training' at Prestwich Hospital, which had its own School of nursing, supported by a Strategic Health Authority neither of which no longer exists... history in the making... but good to have badges that no one else will have or ever have.

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  • Anonymous

    I was awarded my badge when I graduated in 2001 with a degree and my professional award and was mortified when I lost it. They are no longer giving out this important symbol of hard work and pride in my training institution but I was lucky enough to track one down to replace it.

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  • Ahhh yes ... the memories ...the pride ... the sense of identity and the sense of acheivement.It gave one the feeling that you were part of a very exclusive and respected club.
    I too have my hospital badge and often come across it when having my infrequent "tidy out " sessions ...but it always goes back in the box to be looked at and remembered another day.
    Find it hard to think that wearing a badge would in any significant way contribute to poor infection control but do appreciate its not practicable when working closely "hands on " with patients , but no more so than pens , name badges, or fob watches .
    Back in the day the nurses badge was instantly recognisable as to where the nurse had trained. Sadly, badges, along with smart uniform , "sensible shoes", american tan tights, and a paper hat ( and that was just the male nurses ! )would appear to have no place in modern university led nursing.Most nurses nowadays could easily be mistaken for any number of the allied health professionalls who also wear the trousers, tunics and trainers.

    Shame really .......

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  • I lost my Westminster Hospital badge some years ago and so sorry to have done so - I still have my belt buckle which I do not wear for fear of losing that too.

    These badges were about loyalty to the place where one learned the art of caring and instilled a certain self discipline to that end: no one would ever want the shame of bringing their teaching hospital into disrepute.

    Maybe that's why nursing has gone a bit pear-shaped since.

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  • Adrian Bolt

    I think Sue Sullivan is getting her medals muddled up. It is the Victoria Cross, Britain,s highest award for gallantry, that are made from a lump of bronze taken from a cannon captured during the Crimean war.

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  • I too, am very proud of my badge which like Elaine's sits in a jewellery box in my bedroom and has done for a number of years. As others have already said the badge marked an ahievement and allegiance to the place where you trained and that "feeling that you were part of a very exclusive and respected club". It is sad that nowadays with the move to University education this no longer applies. I seem to recall as well that hospitals had nurse leagues that once qualified and even if you had moved to another part of the country you could still belong. happy days!

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  • I am proud of my nursing badge and I still have it at home. I do not wear it at work due to Infection Control issues but I know where it is when I want to show it off. The nursing school closed in 1996, the year I qualified, so they no longer make the badge. I would be devastated if I lost it. They are a badge of honour and should be worn with pride when we have opportunities to do so.

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  • As one of a growing band of nursing history collectors with over 800 different nursing and hospital badges in my colllection,I can say that the interest in them is still high.Their history reflects that of the profession itself from the early days of the 1890s through to todays university graduates. The stories behind the designs often reflected that of the hospitals and communities they served and each one engendered a sense of achievement becoming a trained nurse.

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  • I too have my badge and belt buckle and wouldn't part with them for anything. It is an important part of my history and I am proud to have been awarded them.

    I don't believe badges have anything to do with infection control issues at all. The belt buckles I appreciate more of an issue for moving and handling.

    However, Peter - when I need these to go to an good home, I will remember your a collector!

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  • As a younger nurse I think many of us are desparate to return to smarter, more distinctive and yes traditional uniforms. My mother is very proud of her hospital badge and I am sad we longer receive them on qualifying. There is no evidence at all that badges are an infection control hazard, the same with belts.
    Please let's get back to an instantly recognisable professional uniform of dress and belt, and yes badges too!

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