2020 Year of the Nurse and the Midwife
How appropriate that in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic we are celebrating the contributions of nurses and midwives to healthcare and research across the world and marking Florence Nightingale’s bicentennial year.
Florence Nightingale Lives On
Listen to Beryl describe the Nightingale wards and how the dealt with the 1955/56 flu epidemic.
Irene Bell, born in 1939 in Chester-le-Street started her nurse training in 1957 at Shotley Bridge Hospital in County Durham. After a year in the classroom she reflects on her first time on the ward and the realisation that “these people in these beds are reliant on you”. Here she talks about nurse hierarchies and the matrons who ruled the wards.
Irene later worked as a HIV/Aids coordinator in County Durham throughout the 1990s until her retirement in 2000, promoting sexual health and awareness of HIV/AIDS in the community.
Listen to Irene reflect on her nurse training.
Listen to Patricia reflect on her experience of nursing a ventilated patient whilst on an intensive care training course at Whiston Hospital in October 1969.
As the NHS expanded and shifted course during the mid-20th century, community and district nursing became a central part of healthcare.
Born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, in 1962, Briege Quinn is a nurse consultant for mental health and learning disability with the Public Health Agency in Northern Ireland.
She started her career in Belfast hospitals, before the 1986 Mental Health Order, which stopped the treatment of people with addictions on psychiatric wards. Briege established the first community addiction team in North West Belfast. She reflects how, during the Troubles, the centre had two entrance doors for the different communities to access the services.
Listen to Briege reflect on the challenges of providing care in the midst of conflict.
Listen to Robert talk about this stand-out moment in his career.
Nurses from across the globe
Since its formation the NHS has recruited nurses and midwives from overseas, who in their interviews speak of the many challenges whilst forging their careers from racism and discrimination.
From the 1990s onwards, equal opportunities legislation and new recruitment regulations has addressed some of these inequities though much remains to be done. Yet despite the difficulties, our interviewees remained passionate about delivering excellent care and supporting the NHS.
Listen to Elaine reflect on the qualities she feels a nurse needs.
Listen to Yvonne discuss her experience of being appointed private secretary of health and her developing interest in race equality in the NHS, as she became increasingly aware of the significant lack of BAME nurses in leadership roles.
Listen to Dennis describe his experiences of discrimination,his memories of arriving in the UK and induction to the NHS.
From Birth to Death: Midwifery and Palliative Care
Diane Chadderton was born in 1962 in Castleton, Rochdale. After completing a general nursing course in 1985 at Royal Oldham Hospital, Diane specialised as a midwife. The experience of giving birth to her own children at home, at a time when this was not common, inspired Diane to promote and develop birth choices for women, both at home and in hospital. Diane was instrumental in the set up of the midwife led birth centre at Royal Oldham Hospital in 2012. In her interview Diane reflects on the positive impact you can have on families as a midwife.
Listen to Diane reflect on delivering the baby of a couple she had introduced.
Listen to Joan describe how the staff supported families with bereavement.
Palliative, or end of life, care allows the patient to die with dignity and live as well as possible until that point.
Claire Henry MBE, now a senior palliative care manager, describes the importance and process of palliative care, and its positive impact on the individual as well as their families.
She makes plain that palliative care is not depressing. Here she discusses the ‘good death’ of one of her patients, someone estranged from family, who “didn’t die with people who didn’t care about her”.
Listen to Claire talk about the difference you can “really make that difference” to someone’s life through palliative care.
NHS at 70 is currently collecting Covid-19 stories that speak to nurses’ resilience and fortitude in responding to the national crisis.
Rohit Sagoo, a lecturer in children’s nursing trained as a nurse in the 1990s, becoming one of the first male Sikh children nurses. He founded a grassroots organisation called British Sikh nurses to break down barriers between the Sikh community and the NHS, supporting the community to access healthcare and talk about issues like organ donation and mental illness. In his most recent interview with us Rohit talks about the risk of Covid-19 to the BAME community, the challnges of this and the impact of this on the community.
Rohit recently signed up to return to frontline nursing during the pandemic if needed. He talks frankly about how this makes him anxious, but almost excited to return to hands on care, reflecting 'nursing is ...'
Listen to Rohit reflect on how he feels about returning to nursing during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Carolyn, a staff nurse on a renal ward, talks about the pace of change during the Covid-19 pandemic and shifts in the way space is managed in the hospital. She describes the "huge horrible impact on all aspects of patient care" from relatives not being able to visit to the practicalities of nursing with PPE.
Listen to Carolyn discuss how the the Covid-19 pandemic and how this has affected patient care.
Nursing and midwifery have changed enormously over the 70 or so years of the NHS. Now an all-graduate profession with new roles like nurse-practitioners, nursing expertise has expanded to support new technologies and an increased range of services and therapies.
Ethel Armstong, who worked in the NHS from the beginning and featured heavily in the NHS70 celebrations, reflects on the introduction digital technology in healthcare, stating that when she is 'snuffing her last' all she wants is a "warm compassionate hand" and that there is "no app that can replace that".
What shines through all these stories is how providing compassionate care for patients is the bedrock of nursing, and as just as important today to patients, their families and nurses as it has been since 1948.
The NHS at 70 team had both great pleasure and difficulty in creating this feature highlighting the diverse role of the nurse and midwife, as this represents only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amazing stories interviewees have generously shared with us.
You can discover more stories from nurses and midwifes in other features across the site and explore complete oral histories in our Digital Archive.
Thank you to all our volunteers and interviewees for their support!