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Westminster Abbey welcomes annual celebration of nursing founder


Nurses from around the country gathered yesterday evening in London to celebrate the life and work of Florence Nightingale.

Sam Foster, chief nurse at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, carried the ceremonial lamp at the annual commemoration service at Westminster Abbey.

She was accompanied by Sithembile Chinaire, a diabetes nurse specialist at London Bridge Hospital, and Natalie Yates-Bolton, a nursing lecturer from the University of Salford.

They were escorted by student nurses and midwives from the University of Bangor, Swansea University, Cardiff University and University of South Wales.

Ms Foster and her escort played the leading role in the annual service to pay tribute to Florence Nightingale and celebrate the dedication and professionalism of today’s nurses.

Representing the transfer of knowledge from one nurse to another, the lamp was taken from the Florence Nightingale Chapel and escorted to the abbey’s high altar.

On arrival before the altar, the lamp was handed to Ms Chinaire who, in turn, passed it to Ms Yates-Bolton and then to the dean of Westminster, the very reverand John Hall, who placed it on the alter.

Dr Hall said: We thank God for Florence Nightingale: for her enterprise and heroism, and for the example she has left us.

“We pray that her ideals of compassion, quality of care, and training may continueto inspire and sustain nurses everywhere. We praise God for all those nurses who, like her, have carried the lamp of healing into the dark places of our world.”

This year’s service, on Wednesday 6 May, represented the 50th anniversary of the event, which is organised by the Florence Nightingale Foundation. 

Professor Michael Wheeler, visiting professor at the universities of Lancaster, Roehampton and Southampton, addressed the congregation.

He drew attention to Florence Nightingale’s role as an educator, noting that she was not just the “lady with the lamp, but the lady with the book”.

The service took place a few days before 12 May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth and International Nurses Day.


Readers' comments (12)

  • I'm curious as to why all of the featured nurses and midwives are wearing caps, given that most employers moved away from this at least 10 years ago?

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  • A 'selfie', to bring it up-to-date. And a picture of a selfie to add a touch more class. At least the bucket challenge died a death. I think the picture of the selfie is worse than the selfie. You never move the profession forward by being both retro and consumerist.

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  • Why were all of the students from Wales?
    I think Florence Nightingale would be horrified at the way nurse training has evolved into todays mess and shortage of Nurses. Also the cheap way they are being replaced by advanced health care practitioners which the public, who recieves the service, has no idea what the title means! Everything sounds so grand these days but where is the substance?

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  • Florence Nightingale would have not tolerated the slack way the nurse on the right has her hair down to her shoulders. This demonstrates the standards set by some of our so called heirarchy of nursing today, regardless of their title or position

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  • Anonymous | 9-May-2015 7:00 pm

    we are no longer living in the times of Florence Nightingale!

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  • You don't need to be living in the times of Florence Nightingale to be aware that having your hair down to your shoulders is unhygienic at best and could even cause infection if hair and skin bacteria drop into wounds etc. It also looks unprofessional and was my first observation when looking at the photo! (This is why those working with food have their hair in nets - patients are clearly not as important). I agree with Anonymous 9 May 7:00pm

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  • When I was nursing you didn't dare have your hair touching your collar! Times have changed and not for the better.

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  • As the nurse whose hair has upset a few people I feel that I should probably comment here. You will be pleased to know that that the original plan had been a hair cut but major surgery meant that the day of the ceremony was my first day out. However, for a few reasons my hair is not a major feature of my role. I work with people who have dementia to explore different ways of supporting them to live their lives to their full potential. I also teach dementia care- not wound care and so I don't usually think about my hair. I have lost my hair four times recently as a result of chemotherapy and so I have to confess having hair for people to comment on is rather a nice change. I hope that I have used Florence Nightingale's legacy to make a difference to the environements in which people who have dementia live fulfilled lives. I will hopefully get that much needed hair cut next week.

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  • Francesca Elner

    I am one of the student nurses pictured taking a selfie and I was extremely proud to be part of the Florence Nightingale commemoration service at the Abbey.
    In a climate quite often dominated by negativity it was wonderful to have the opportunity to be part of something which celebrated the positives of nursing and the service certainly did that.
    Perhaps, rather than picking on hair do's and hats, fellow nurses could be a little more complimentary and encouraging of those nurses (and student nurses) wishing to celebrate and promote the hard work and sacrifices of nurses around the world by showing solidarity and pride in their colleagues.
    Such positivity would certainly be more encouraging to us students who need all the support and kindness we can get in what can otherwise seem a hostile environment.

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  • Oops .. No excuse for spelling environments wrong though !

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