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'Nursing requires strong voices, strong minds and openness to change'

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Student nurse Danielle reflects on her experience attending the annual Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service

After receiving an email about the opportunity to attend the annual Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service in London, with a ceremony in Westminster Abbey, I was quick to send my email explaining why I wanted to go. 

Danielle Tirel

Danielle Tirel

Danielle Tirel

Nursing is a career that requires strong voices, strong minds and openness to change because as Florence said, “how very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”

Florence Nightingale was a social reformer; she did not conform to the set ways and spearheaded modern day nursing. 

I won’t turn what could potentially be quite an interesting blog post into an itinerary, but I do want to briefly explain what the day entailed (and if you’re a student nurse attend it next year!).

The event was held on 17th May, close to Florence’s birthday (12th May, which is celebrated as International Nurses’ Day). It involved morning discussions and questions between student nurses and midwives from across the country with an experienced panel of nurses from various clinical backgrounds.

The discussions covered themes such as the current education system, its future potential, clinical leadership and research. The experience of sharing views with other student nurses on subjects such as our training was really interesting.

We had a fancy buffet lunch with small finger food items (naturally my plate was piled high thanks to my love for party bites) and then proceeded to visit the Nightingale museum and Chapel in St Thomas’ Hospital.

After this, we visited the Westminster Abbey and awaited the ceremony (which included Jane Cummings, Sir Robert Francis and Princess Alexandra). 

The entire event was run by the Florence Nightingale Foundation, with coordinators such as the chief executive, Ursula Ward and vice president Geoffrey Walker, who honestly inspired me with their speeches (even causing goosebumps a couple of times).

The discussions about nurses needing to be the patient’s advocate, to be strong and speak up when required left me feeling energised and glad to be entering this workforce and contributing positively to so many lives. 

There are countless challenges that nurses face, especially newly qualified ones, but that is no reason to be downhearted and deflated when entering such a rewarding career; nursing requires leaders that recognise and follow values while on the ‘factory floor’, as I have once heard it called. 

Leadership throughout the healthcare organisation is what we need to improve confidence, relationships and communication. Nurses know how to care for patients and how to be compassionate, empathetic and build a rapport, so why shouldn’t we lead with example. 

The service involved passing of the lamp, which is a beautiful symbol of transferring knowledge. Watching this, I recalled all the great mentors I’ve worked with and the nurses whom I have looked at and thought I wanna be just as good a nurse as them! Sharing knowledge is an incredibly important element of nursing; we are forever learning and forever improving. 

The ceremony at Westminster Abbey left me feeling proud as a student, as a woman and as an individual who in a couple of months will be able to call herself a registered nurse. 

Yes, I am a nurse. Yes, I will be looking after you today. Yes, this is my uniform. No, I don’t know everything, but yes I am willing to learn and improve.

Someday, I want to be the nurse that students look up to for advice, knowledge and as a role model… like how Florence Nightingale has been for so many nurses and will continue to be in the future!

Danielle Tirel is currently in her third year studying adult nursing at Bournemouth University

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