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International Nurses Day

IND 2020

Today is 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale, the pioneering nurse whose legacy sets the standard for many of the principles of modern day nursing.  Each year, on May 12, nurses across the world celebrate International Nurses Day.  This year, as many of them face the greatest challenge of their careers, Noel Scanlon, executive director of nursing at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, reflects on the achievements of his own teams as they rise to the challenge of dealing with Covid-19, and some of the ways in which Florence Nightingale's approach to healthcare continue to resonate today.

IND 2020

"Having heard reports of the horrific conditions for soldiers wounded during the Crimean war, in October 1854, Florence Nightingale and a team of 38 volunteer nurses she had trained, travelled to the field hospitals in what is now Istanbul.   Confronted with chaos, she restored order, introducing a range of new sciences and an approach which we continue to use today, focusing on fresh air, natural light and access to fresh, clean water - but hygiene was her priority. 

"It fascinates me that all those years ago, Florence Nightingale insisted that if patients could hold out their arms and touch each other, their beds were too close together.  She set out wards so that the distance from the centre of one bedhead to the next was six feet - the same distance that we now know as 'social distancing'.   This distance is still used in ward designs today with space between patients giving micro-organisms less opportunity to spread. 

So much of Florence Nightingale's approach to healthcare is central to our national approach to the current pandemic. As a skilled statistician, she used data to direct policy and was a keen advocate of visual infographics - similar to those we see each day in the Government press briefings.

"The speed with which she worked to make changes in order to save lives reminds me of the way in which our nursing and medical teams responded just a few weeks ago as we prepared for the anticipated increase in patients with Coronavirus.  I'm enormously proud of the role nurses at all levels and from all specialties and backgrounds have adapted.  Many have taken on new roles in new teams as we redesigned our services, working with new people and creating in days a team culture of trust and mutual support that usually takes so much longer to achieve.  The feedback we've had from patients impressed with the care they've received, has been humbling but has also filled me with pride.

"Many of our nurses who usually use their skills in areas such as research, education and outpatient services have returned to our wards, sometimes after many years away which must be enormously daunting. Following a supportive training programme, they've returned to delivering direct patient care, with confidence and without hesitation. 

"Of course, people who work in the NHS are as concerned as everyone else about catching Covid-19 or passing it to their families.  But, quite magnificently, they've shown enormous resilience by putting their patients first and supporting one another.

"Since the start of the pandemic, we've also welcomed 60 new registered nurses and 300 health care assistants who have already become integral to #TeamCDDFT, demonstrating amazing flexibility and commitment.  A number of former retired colleagues have returned. They've regained their professional registration, even working as health care assistants whilst waiting for this to come through. We are indebted to them and appreciative of the experience, professionalism and wisdom they bring.  I'd like them to know the difference they're making. 

"We usually celebrate International Nurses Day with a conference, travel scholarships and an awards dinner which we hope to hold later in the year when we can reflect on what we've achieved, what we might have done differently and perhaps most importantly, what we can take forward to benefit our patients in the future."

To help mark International Nurses Day, CDDFT is launching its annual nurses achievement awards. These awards are open to nominations from #TeamCDDFT colleagues as well as members of the public. They aim to celebrate any nurses, clinical support workers or midwives who have gone above and beyond and deserve that special recognition!   CLICK HERE to find out more on how you can nominate.



Published 12th May 2020

'Care received was fantastic and I was very well looked after and very impressed.'

Patient, Day Surgery, Darlington Memorial Hospital