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Emma Bird

After the initial introductions over breakfast, I entered the auditorium where a speech was given by Greta Westwood. Greta spoke in such an inspiring manner, mentioning her journey from student life, nursing life, and being the CEO of the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF), as well as being awarded an CBE!

After Greta’s lovely speech, I heard from the panelists, who talked about their journey from education to their current role. This was inspiring to hear, more so, some of which I related to; regarding being a mature student and finding passion later in life. Reflectively, this was an inspiring moment to know I wasn’t the only one trying to begin a career later than others. The panelists consisted of Ben Davies, Dr Emma Wadey, Lucy Brown, Jackie Vincent, Jessica Read, Dr Roxanne Crosby-Nwaobi, and Major Michael Collins. The panelists came from different backgrounds, and distinct roles such as, army nurse, prison nurse, pediatrics, and midwifery.

After the talks, and lunch, I made my way (within a group) to St Thomas’ Hospital, where the Florence Nightingale Museum is located. The museum was visually pleasing, with so much information presented in a variety of ways, including videos, official Florence Nightingale items (the famous lamp!), and in-person information from the staff members; including Julie Chandler- the author of Florence Nightingale London, An A to Z of the Lady with the Lamp’.

There was a video in the museum of an amputation which would have taken place during the same time as Nightingale made nursing modern. This was interesting as it demonstrated how surgery has changed throughout the years.

Once back from the museum, we had a masterclass session on leadership. This was presented by Jackie Vincent, Lucy Brown, and Jessica Read. I was able to take notes and use some of the information to aid me with a current application relating to leadership. Topics such as social media also came up within this masterclass, which helped me with the structure and ‘influence’ with my nursing Instagram.

When we arrived at Westminster Abbey for the commemoration service, I needed to pinch myself! This was such a surreal moment, that I never thought I would be a part of. Princess Alexandra was present at the service, which I was in awe. Reflecting on my time there, I never realised how fortunate I was to work at Princess Alexandra hospital, in Nightingale ward! – a surreal moment for Princess Alexandra to be present at the Nightingale commemoration.

Greta Westwood opened the service with a lovely speech about Florence Nightingale, the fallen nurses of the war, and the Nurses who lost their lives during Covid-19. The presentation of her speech made me feel personally proud to be part of the experience and hear her words in person. Moreso, when the lamp was carried, it made me reflect how grateful I was to Florence Nightingale for turning the nursing career into a respected career.

As usual, there was the procession of the roll of honour, listing the names of nurses who lost their lives during the Second World War. Alongside this, a new roll of honour was introduced. Reading from the program, “Let us remember also those nurses and midwives who have given their lives in faithful service during Covid pandemic who are recorded in the Covid Roll of Honour”. This showed how caring and thoughtful FNF, and the other organisers were to address the Nurses and Midwives who died in service during the latest pandemic.