Celebrating the Lady
with the Lamp

Team Discussion

Multiple authors

2020 marks 200 years since Florence Nightingale’s birth. The “Florence Nightingale Commemoration” service, ordinarily held annually in Westminster Abbey, is yet another casualty of the current COVID-19 crisis. The ceremony was planned for today (12th May – her birthday) and, though usually lost in the “small-print” of life, somehow takes on a new meaning in the current times. The service includes the carrying of a symbolic lamp in a procession of scholars, student nurses and Chelsea pensioners.

Much has been written about the “lady with the lamp” and her role in defining nursing care; helping to make the baby-steps from “slop-pails and poultices” and laying the foundations for the highly skilled and diverse profession we recognise today. Her notes on nursing and hospitals – at the time, revolutionary – are still packed with relevant advice for today, such as “airing the sick person’s room”. You can listen to a spine-tingling, but sadly very scratchy, recording of her voice here.

Nursing care on the frontline and the extraordinary work – too often at personal risk – being carried out at present makes me think that Florence Nightingale would have been very proud of the nursing profession she joined so long ago. The annual ceremony to acknowledge her work and contribution to healthcare may be on ice for a while, but there can be no doubt that Nurse Nightingale’s legacy lives on.

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