Every year a Students’ Day is held in London by the Florence Nightingale Foundation to coincide with the Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service at Westminster Abbey. The Foundation invites universities with an undergraduate nursing degree programme to nominate two student nurses to attend. The day begins at St Thomas’ Hospital when students from across the UK have the opportunity to put questions on issues that are important to them to an invited panel. After lunch, the students are given a tour of the Florence Nightingale Museum and the day concludes with the service in Westminster Abbey.
For the selection process students were invited to express their interest by submitting a short application detailing why they felt they should be selected and what they believed they would gain from the experience. Applications were reviewed by Maggie Carson, Undergraduate Programme Director. The two students selected were Amy McLean and Eva Horne.
Amy stated: “I think this would be a really good experience to reflect on the history of nursing and how the profession has progressed through the years. I would love to meet other student nurses from around the country, and to talk with them about the differences in our training and the healthcare systems where we are working. Additionally, I would like to learn more about the foundation and the work it has done. I would love to represent the university at this event!”
While Eva said: “I would very much appreciate if I might be considered. As a student with an eagerness for learning, I feel like I could gain a lot from this experience and represent the University to a high standard. The panel discussions held will be beneficial to learn more about other students and of our shared experiences of nursing thus far. Interacting with nursing students from around the UK is something I feel I could do very well as a passionate and outgoing student. Attending the Florence Nightingale museum would be thought-provoking, especially in the aspect of how nursing has changed over the years. Learning more about her legacy before her commemoration at Westminster Abbey would be an inspirational event for every student nurse.”
The two students were also asked to write a reflection of their experience:
The student conference held in London consisted of an initial panel discussion with student nurses and midwives from around the UK and an expert panel of health professionals, followed by a guided tour of the Florence Nightingale Museum. The day was finished with a Commemoration of Florence Nightingale at Westminster Abbey.
The panel discussion covered some very pertinent issues concerning the future of Nursing and how we, as students, can influence and change our healthcare service for the better. The questions discussed with the professionals raised a variety of interesting topics, including how the NHS differs across each country in the UK even though we are “united”, issues with recruiting student nurses and midwives and problems with retaining qualified staff. The image of the nursing profession was also discussed in depth, with particular regard to recruitment and how a negative image can deter people from becoming nurses. Several male student nurses raised the issue of nursing being seen as a largely female profession, which sparked great conversation between the panel members and students.
It was an incredible opportunity to see how nursing programmes differ across the country and the shared experience of us as nursing students, up to this point in our careers. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the students from a variety of universities as well as the thoroughly experienced panel who were more than happy to share stories from their time as students. Members of the Florence Nightingale Foundation then went into greater detail about the scholarships they offer and how they aim to continue influencing policy and future practice.
Visiting The Florence Nightingale Museum was a unique experience and gave a much greater insight into Florence’s earlier life and career, as well as her time in the Crimean war — which has undoubtedly influenced nursing and lead it to where it is today. We all gained a greater appreciation for nursing and the skills we all have gained throughout our training.
Later we were escorted to Westminster Abbey for the Florence Nightingale Commemoration Service. We were stunned by the number of people in attendance; the huge venue was filled. Prior to the service, all of the students were allowed entry to the Florence Nightingale and Nurses’ chapel — a tiny chapel hidden up a narrow set of stairs that you would not see unless brought to. We took a picture in front of a beautiful stained glass window which depicted a nurse reaching up to the Virgin and Child; the famous lamp is also present.
Amy McLean and Eva Horn at Westminster Abbey
The service itself was fantastic, and a number of speakers gave moving addresses describing their nursing experiences. The torch was passed from last year’s Florence Nightingale Scholar to this year’s. A roll of honour was carried through the Abbey that contained the names of all of the nurses that had died in World War II. This was particularly emotional, as we were encouraged to reflect upon the sacrifices of nurses who cared for injured soldiers.
The day left us feeling moved and inspired, and as though we could really be agents for change within the NHS. The weather was stunning and we managed to squeeze in some sightseeing. Overall, this was a fantastic experience and we are very grateful that we could be a part of this great event.