Students Day Blog Series

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  • Students Day Blog Series: Sarah Beechey’s Reflections

I’m currently in my second year of study for Adult Nursing at Cardiff University. When I discovered I had won a place at the Florence Nightingale Foundation student day, I was delighted to have been chosen. The university staff were very supportive, covering my hotel and travel costs for the event. However, I have never been to London alone, so a few nerves started to appear. Already, I was being taken out of my comfort zone, but the opportunity was too good to miss.

My experience started early with the WhatsApp group, set up so students could get to know each other before the day. Everyone was so friendly and excited to meet up. I met up with a student from Liverpool the night before the event and we spent the evening talking about our courses and our plans for our future careers, as we explored a little bit of London. I went back to my hotel tired but looking forward to the next day. I was awake by 6am as I couldn’t wait to get started!

At the event I met up with other students from different universities, including local students from the Kings College. I started to learn more about other students’ experiences of nursing training at different universities, and their nursing journey. As we settled in the lecture hall, we were welcomed by Professor Greta Westwood who shared her journey into nursing and how her career developed. It was a surprisingly personal account and I really connected to her story. Geoffrey Walker OBE then shared his nursing story, which was also personal but full of humour, before he introduced us to the panel. One by one, the panel members shared their journeys, each of which was fascinating and inspirational. The floor was then opened to student questions, which the panel answered with experience and care, dispensing useful advice, and sharing contacts for developing ideas. Listening to students’ ideas they wanted to progress, I felt excited that our ideas were being supported. Indeed, some will likely go on to shape future practice. It was a very empowering experience.

After lunch, we walked to the Florence Nightingale Museum, based at St Thomas’ Hospital. The staff at the museum were clearly dedicated to providing a step back in time to look at the life of Florence, not just in the Crimean war, but across her life. One staff member said Florence’s biggest impact was in making Nursing a respectable profession. I thought about this and recognised the importance of this change in public views towards nursing, not just historically but in modern nursing.

The last event of the day was the commemorative service at Westminster Abbey. Although the walk to the Abbey saw a downpour, it was hard to dampen our spirits as we approached. The architecture was magnificent, and the scale was beyond what I had expected. As we entered the Abbey we took our seats for the service, which was charged with emotion. The Kings College students took part in the procession of the lamp and the Nurses Roll of Honour was accompanied by the newly added Covid-19 pandemic Roll of Honour.

The student day allowed me to reflect on the work of Florence and consider my own place as a nursing leader. I have made new friends and been inspired by the experiences shared. I have been encouraged to develop, so my next steps will include accessing the digital leadership programme and connecting with the contacts made. Longer term, I will access the preceptorship programmes available for early career development as I continue my own nursing journey.