How nursing history impacts on the modern day profession

Continuing our series to celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020 and the benefits that nursing and midwifery bring to the health of the global population…

To mark this world first, the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) is publishing a special series of 12 monthly posts to honour the work of nurses who work in palliative care and draw attention to several issues that are linked to this crucial workforce. 

As today is the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, we are delighted to welcome as our guest writer, Professor Bridget Johnston, Florence Nightingale Foundation Clinical Professor of Nursing, University of Glasgow and NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Scotland, UK.

Professor Bridget Johnston.

When I agreed to provide a post for the EAPC blog in this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, who could have predicted the current situation with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the impact on palliative and end-of-life care globally. I reflect on how, now more than ever, we need experienced, trained nurses to care for people with palliative care needs, and who are nearing the end of life, as well as, their families and those close to them worldwide.

This post is part of the series to mark Florence Nightingale’s birthday on 12th May and the bicentenary of her birth. My role is unique in many ways: I am one of the few professors of palliative nursing in the world. I am also a clinical academic. We have only 0.1 per cent nurse clinical academics in the UK in comparison to 4.6 per cent of medical clinical academics, with similar or lower figures mirrored worldwide. Florence Nightingale, it could be argued, was the original clinical academic.

I am one of seven Florence Nightingale Foundation Clinical Professors of Nursing in the UK. My fellow Florence Nightingale professors share a common purpose of improving patient and nursing care and building capacity in nursing research across the UK, and wider across Europe and internationally with our collaborations. Our network also provides me, personally, with fellowship and support – important for all nurses.

Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820. She is known as a British social reformer and statistician and, importantly, the founder of modern nursing. Still, in 2020, she is the most well-known nurse worldwide. She was a leader and a radical who believed that nurses needed to be ‘trained’ and not just plucked from the streets. She argued that collecting robust data could change practice for the better.

Florence Nightingale 1820-1910.
(Wikimedia Commons).

In 1860, Florence Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Florence Nightingale’s reforms and what we would now call feminism are still relevant today. I think she would be surprised how nursing is viewed today, particularly the ill-placed backlash towards the need for academic nursing, not least in our area of palliative and end-of-life care. We know that as nurses make up the largest proportion of the global health workforce, and are often the first point of contact for many people across all care settings, they are ideally positioned to improve the delivery of palliative and end-of-life care.

In her own care of the dying, Florence Nightingale often went beyond the call of duty. Her interest in the families of those who had died in the Crimean War led her to write them letters recounting their loved one’s final days and hours, recalling the person they were and giving comfort to those who mourned them. This mirrors the care we are providing in Glasgow with Covid-19 today, where nurses are connecting with relatives via virtual visiting and the mementoes at the end of life providing memories and a legacy for their loved ones when they die.

Celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020 on the EAPC blog #nurses2020 #midwives2020. View the series here and join us again in June when Dr Bart Cusveller from the Netherlands, will be our guest writer.  

Links and resources

This entry was posted in Coronavirus and palliative care, International Year of Nurse & Midwife 2020, Nursing, PATIENT & FAMILY CARE and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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