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 (12th 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.

Senior nursing leaders are 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.

Duncan Burton, Regional Chief Nurse for South East England, said:

“International Nurses Day is a moment to say thank you to nurses wherever they may be, who work tirelessly to support people at all moments of their lives. It is also an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the diversity of nurses and would actively encourage anyone thinking of a career in nursing to go for it. To my fellow nurses everywhere – thank you for everything you do.”

Thousands of former nurses have come out of retirement 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.

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.

Carol Dolbear from Kent became a nurse more than 50 years ago as she wanted to help people and to make a difference.

Carol, 73, has worked for Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) for the past five years and now works part-time as a health visitor. During her five decades in nursing she has worked in many areas including accident and emergency (A&E), obstetrics and district nursing, as well as being a union rep and an agency nurse.

Carol, who has two children, a son and a daughter and three grandchildren, said: “I love nursing. I see the value in what I do.

“I can make a difference to people’s lives, especially children. Health visitors are the only people who are invited into people’s homes on a regular basis. We can pick up easily if things are not going right and families are struggling. We build up a good relationship with families and we do our best.

“Health visiting and A&E have been my two favourite areas to work in. If I could go back to A&E I would, but I’m not sure I could stay on my feet for 12-14 hours anymore! I liked the fact that no two days were ever the same and you never knew what was coming next. I learnt many skills, including how to suture and plaster.”

Carol started her healthcare career as a ward clerk receptionist, at Barnet General Hospital in Hertfordshire, aged just 17. She lived on site and returned to the family home in Dover at weekends. After her bills were paid, she took home £11 a month. After some months it became apparent that the travelling and the cost were no longer viable and so she applied to train at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital where she stayed for over three years.

She said: “I always knew I wanted to help people, but I didn’t know in what capacity. My mum had started training as a nurse but didn’t continue because of the war.

“I didn’t just do children and adult nursing at Canterbury, I did everything and in my final year, obstetrics was included, which I loved, and which helped me when I decided to become a health visitor.”

After qualifying as a nurse, Carol was invited by the Sister in charge of A&E at the hospital to join the team, where she stayed for a while. She then became a district nurse, aged just 21. She said: “I had no fear of my move into the community to work, as I was well supported by my colleagues. At this time I lived and worked in Dover. I did 12 hours shifts, 8 – 8, and was encouraged to take time out during the afternoons. I would often go to sit on the beach in the summer, always on the same spot, and GPs would come and find me if they needed me, as they knew exactly

where I would be. Now of course we have mobile phones. It was a lot of hours, as I would also be required to go out in the middle of the night, if needed, to give morphine and terminal care.”

Carol took a short time out to be a mum and then went to work at Sevenoaks Hospital part-time, joining the A&E department. She later did her health visiting training, wanting a role which would fit in better with family life. She also worked some years in Bromley, working as a patch manager and then as an assistant director of nursing in charge of district nurses, health visitors and school nurses.

She became a union rep and worked on health and safety, including co-authoring the national NHS Guidelines for the Prevention of Violence Against Staff. She later did a master’s in nursing research at King’s. She retired on health grounds, but later became an agency nurse in A&E across Kent and then worked in Lewisham as a district nurse and health visitor, after which she joined KCHFT. She now works in the Maidstone area and lives nearby.