FNF hosts poignant Commemoration Service to celebrate and thank nurses and midwives

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The Florence Nightingale Foundation was honoured to host the 58th Florence Nightingale annual service for nurses and midwives around the world who continue Florence’s legacy today.

On 16 May we welcomed UK and global representatives from across all nursing and midwifery organisations and communities to the Service, sponsors and supporters of the charity, our recently graduated Scholars, alumni who have attended our leadership programmes in the past twelve months, and FNF Academy Members.

“We are here today for two reasons. First to celebrate Florence’s life and works. Second, and very importantly, to pause and reflect on the difference you make every day to people’s lives. Your work must never go unrecognised. Whether you are here today as a nurse, midwife, health care professional, Florence’s relative, representative from government, relative or friend of a nurse or midwife, or someone who has just come to say thank you, we all give our gratitude and appreciation for your dedication to our professions. This service is for all of you.”

Professor Greta Westwood CBE, CEO Florence Nightingale Foundation

“Florence Nightingale was a champion of modern nursing and changed the profile of the profession. Her legacy symbolises the passion, determination, and selflessness of the nursing community, past and present. It was an honour to attend this service and to celebrate the enormous contribution of our nurses and midwives. I would like to thank my fellow nursing colleagues for their extraordinary work helping others every day.” Maria Caulfield MP, Health Minister

We were delighted to host Maria Caulfield, MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, from the Department of Health and Social Care, and Andrew Gwynne, MP and Shadow Minister for Public Health, and the Lady Mayoress of London.

“It was my great privilege to represent the Shadow Health and Social Care Team at the annual Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service in St Paul’s Cathedral. A moving Service to remember Florence’s life and to thank today’s nursing staff too.” Andrew Gwynne, MP

As has been tradition since 1970, a lamp, which was donated in memory of Mrs Kathleen Dampier-Bennett, a trustee of the charity from 1951 – 1968, was carried through the Cathedral by Louie Horne, an FNF Scholar. It was then placed on the altar to represent ‘the undying spirit of the service displayed by Florence Nightingale,’ demonstrated by nurses and midwives today.

The Lamp Carrier was followed by two Lamp Escorts – Steve Hams and Misbah Mahmood, who led a procession of other esteemed Scholars of the Foundation, followed by student nurses and midwives from the University of Derby. This element of the Service signifies the transfer of knowledge through the generations.

“I was delighted to be part of this beautiful Service at St Paul’s today, and to represent three generations of nurses in the family and the wonderful nurses I have the privilege to work with everyday.” Viranga Brooks, FNF Alumna

During the Service, we remembered nurses and midwives named in two Rolls of Honour.  The Covid-19 Pandemic Roll of Honour, introduced in 2022, is dedicated to all nurses, midwives, nursing associates and health care support workers who courageously and selflessly provided care during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was carried through the Cathedral by UK Chief Nursing Officers (CNO), namely Dame Ruth May DBE, CNO England, Gillian Knight, Nursing Officer, Welsh Government, representing CNO Wales, Maria McIlgorm, CNO Northern Ireland, and Professor Jacqui Reilly CBE, Director in National Services Scotland and Public Health Scotland, representing CNO Scotland.

“It was an honour and privilege to be part of the Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service to recognise the contribution of nurses and midwives, including the extraordinary efforts of those who provided care throughout the pandemic. My heartfelt thanks for all you do.” Dame Ruth May DBE, CNO for England

The Commonwealth Roll of Honour, introduced in 1965, commemorates nurses who lost their lives on active service in the Second World War and was compiled by the British Commonwealth Nurses’ War Memorial Fund. It was carried through the Cathedral by Private Olivia Moore, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, escorted by Captain Peter Selwood, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service, Head of Naval Nursing Service; Colonel Paul Jackson, Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, Chief Nursing Officer (Army); and Group Captain Emma Redman, Princess Mary’s Royal Air Force Nursing Service, Director of Nursing Services (RAF).

Our 2,000 guests also observed reflections, biddings and prayers read by Officers and friends of the charity.  

“I was deeply honoured to have offered a bidding prayer on behalf of ICN to nurses who serve across the world at this service to commemorate the life of Florence Nightingale.” Howard Catton, CEO of International Council of Nurses

Following the Service, a small reception, sponsored by FNF’s strategic partners Nuffield Health, was hosted in the Chapter House.

The now also traditional FNF Students’ Day, sponsored by the University of Derby, took place ahead of the Service: a unique opportunity for student nurses and midwives from across the UK to network with peers and established leaders, learn from our leadership and scholarship programmes, participate in debates, and celebrate our professions. See FNF Early Careers Twitter account or follow the #FNFStudents hashtag for posts and updates from the day, and watch out for blogs from some of the students coming soon.

“It was a great honour to represent the Health Faculty during this prestigious event. I met some amazing people from all over the UK, and a few of the speakers were really influential and inspiring. Before I went to London, I knew it would be a great learning opportunity for me, but I did not expect it to make me feel so proud of being a student Midwife.” Edge Hill University Student

“What an honour for me, on behalf of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, to provide the reflective space and time to celebrate the life and works of Florence Nightingale and the work, dedication and commitment of nurses and midwives today across the world. If you have been touched by a nurse or midwife and want to say thank-you please consider a donation to fund a scholar.

Professor Greta Westwood CBE, CEO Florence Nightingale Foundation

Our thanks go to everyone who shared their own photos and reflections on social media, they have been wonderful to see and to read.

Some special memories of the day