Public called up to help the NHS ‘shine a light’ for our nurses

Nursing leaders are asking the public to ‘shine a light’ to mark International Nurses Day on Tuesday (12 May) and recognise the extraordinary work that their colleagues are doing in the fight against coronavirus.

The day also marks on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who founded modern nursing and pioneered infection control, but is also famous for her lamp.

2020 has been made International Year of the Nurse to mark the bicentenary of Florence’s birth.

Ruth May, England’s top nurse, has joined other senior nursing leaders in urging people to shine a light from their window at 8:30pm on Tuesday to mark the day and show their appreciation for all that nurses are doing to save and rebuild the lives of patients with coronavirus.

Thousands of former nurses have returned to help the NHS with the greatest health emergency in its history, and thousands more students have done their bit in the battle against Covid-19 through choosing to take up extended clinical placements.

To mark International Nurses Day and Florence Nightingale’s bicentenary, an image of her and a message of thanks will be projected on to her place of work, St Thomas’s Hospital, from the Houses of Parliament.

It will also be projected onto the British Embassy in Rome and the Italian Federation of Nurses between 9 – 11pm.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “International Day of the Nurse is particularly special this year not just because we mark the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, but because of the extraordinary work all those who have followed in her footsteps are doing in the fight against coronavirus.

“I want to thank each and every one of our incredible nurses who are on the frontline in the battle against the greatest health emergency in NHS history. Their professionalism and skills are helping to save and rebuild countless lives.

“It is a challenging but hugely rewarding career and I would urge anyone inspired by their example to sign up to join us and become a nurse.

“I know how much the public’s support has buoyed my colleagues during this testing time. It would mean a great deal if people once again showed their gratitude by shining a light for nurses this Tuesday.”

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “This year International Nurses Day falls in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, with our nurses at the very forefront of the response every day and night. I have been humbled to see them face the biggest challenge of a generation, continuing to show compassion, professionalism and dedication during incredibly demanding times.

“I want to take this opportunity to send my personal thanks to all our nurses, both former and current, for their unwavering commitment and care to their patients and communities.

“As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, I encourage everyone to take a moment to show their gratitude and shine a light to nurses working tirelessly up and down the country.” 

Professor Greta Westwood, CEO of Florence Nightingale Foundation said: “Nurses have been on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, providing expert care and support to patients and their families during these uncertain times.

“Florence Nightingale, herself a trailblazer during her career, would have been proud at the way nurses have followed in her footsteps as pioneers and leaders in the fight against the pandemic. They are truly her legacy today.”

Andrea Sutcliffe CBE, Chief Executive and Registrar at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) said: “International Nurses Day is more important than ever as we recognise the enormous contribution existing and former professionals are making in caring for people through some of the most challenging moments of their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“2020, the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, is shining a light on the dedication, skills and expertise of everyone on the NMC register in ways we hadn’t expected.  They are the beating heart of our health and social care system, trusted and appreciated by the public and deserving of our admiration and respect.

“I am so grateful and proud of our nurses, nursing associates and their colleagues.  I hope this special day encourages even more nurses to join or return to what is a wonderful and rewarding career.”

Julie Pearce, Marie Curie Chief Nurse and Executive Director of Quality and Caring Services, said: “Caring for someone during their final weeks and days of life is both a privilege and a challenge. Right now our frontline nurses and other professionals are committed to supporting the NHS through this national crisis, caring for patients with coronavirus and other illnesses in our hospices, in homes and care homes across our four nations.

“Nurses have never had a more difficult time providing care, and we’ve seen them rise to the challenge, from moving into frontline roles, helping families to keep their loved one safe and addressing the understandable anxieties that are being felt at this time. International Nurses Day is a special time for us all to come together to celebrate and thank every nurse for their courage and commitment.”

Nursing has changed dramatically since Florence Nightingale founded the first nursing school in London – nurses are not only on hospital wards, they are out in the community, care homes, academia, running hospitals and developing policy.

The modern nursing challenge is to deliver consistent and improving high quality care and they are essential to meet the challenge of improving care, reducing inequalities and using health and care resources wisely.

Nurses have never been more needed. If you’re interested in joining our team, find out more.