During the first lockdown from March 2020, on Thursdays at 8.00 pm we would gingerly leave the safety of our homes to clap, bang on saucepans with wooden spoons, ring bells, blow whistles and cheer for key workers, especially those in the NHS working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. This continued like clockwork every week for around two months and inevitably, as is the nature of such trends, dwindled down. Meanwhile, nurses were still wearing extensive layers of PPE for the entirety of their 13-hour shifts, some were living apart from loved ones in order to prevent the spread of the virus and others returned to the profession to add support. Following the first wave of the pandemic, a study was taken using a survey assessing indications of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It became evident that 30 to 40 percent of nurses and midwives were suffering from probable PTSD as a direct result of the challenges they faced due to COVID-19.
International Nurses’ Day is an opportunity to recognise the demanding, ever-changing and varied role of nurses in the community. Like many key workers in the pandemic, the career of nursing is vocational – it is a calling. Whilst it may not be the most glamorous job, it offers the opportunity to play a role in people’s lives when they are at their most vulnerable.
I have been lucky enough to be accepted onto a dual qualification, Adult and Child Nursing MNurs at the University of Southampton, starting in September. The dual qualification course is a fairly recent addition available at select universities. Being qualified in more than one field of nursing will give future nurses a greater breadth of knowledge which will be instrumental in providing rounded care to suit the unique needs of every individual. Nurses may choose to specialise in particular fields and to use their expertise, knowledge and shared experiences with patients to conduct academic research. Many nurses will continue their studies and achieve a doctorate; evidence-based practice with a real focus on patient values is invaluable for research projects.
Today is not only International Nurses’ Day, but also the birthday of the famous ‘lady with the lamp’ Florence Nightingale. Whilst many know her name, the sum of her achievements is often overlooked. Ms Nightingale was a pioneer. During the Crimean War, she managed and trained nurses as well as tending to the wounded soldiers. She was fundamental in establishing nursing as a professional career as she founded the first secular nursing school in the world ‘St Thomas’ Hospital’ (now part of Kings College London).
Ms Nightingale is also a particularly fitting role model for Farnborough Hill as she was an active intersectional feminist, social reformer and early pioneer for women in STEM. Against the adversity of the time she reformed healthcare for everyone, including those in poverty who previously would not have had access to it; they would not have had access to what we now consider our right as British citizens. She also helped to abolish laws on prostitution which were unjustly harsh on women, she even advocated for better hunger relief in India. This one woman improved uncountable lives, her influence is felt internationally. It is often difficult to ‘dream big’ and to have the belief in yourself that you, one person, could create so much good for the world. Women still face adversity, even in today’s culture, for speaking up for their rights. Ms Nightingale is, without a doubt, an incredible and inspiring woman who proves how hard work, diligence and a passion for care can reach so far.
The nurses who worked during the pandemic have also touched so many lives across the United Kingdom and through their actions have inspired many to pursue this career. The future is bright for those working in healthcare, with many new courses, roles in management and ever-advancing scientific research – the opportunities to make a difference are vast.