|The Nightingale Society|
|Newsletter||31 March 2020|
By Lynn McDonald, co-founder
Not the Recognition We Hoped to See!
The National Health Service, with the help of the British Army, is setting up a 4000-bed temporary hospital for coronavirus patients at the Ex-Cel centre in the Docklands. Ironically, this is the venue for which a major nursing convention was scheduled for the autumn, for the Bicentenary, then cancelled.
Nightingale, of course, is a good name for this hospital, which will be the largest in the country. She was herself an effective advocate on prevention and treatment on infectious diseases. She was superintendent of nursing at the Scutari Barrack Hospital, during the Crimean War, then the largest hospital in the world.
“Call to name Birmingham field hospital after Crimean nurse”
Response to Caroline Gall’s BBC News article, 29 March 2020
Patrick Vernon’s claim that Jamaican businesswoman Mary Seacole was rejected by Florence Nightingale to join her band of nurses is simply false. Nor did Mrs Seacole, a fine, decent, feisty person, ever suggest that this happened. To the contrary, in her memoir, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands¸ reports meeting her once, when she asked for a bed for the night at her hospital, and got it. The encounter was entirely friendly.
Mrs Seacole ran a restaurant/bar/takeaway and catering service for officers. It was much appreciated. She visited at the hospital close to her business, to distribute magazines donated by officers’ wives, kind certainly, but hardly nursing. Yes, she did go onto the battlefield three times, post-battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators. She did what she could to help, and so did many other people, all very nice but nothing like the years of work Nightingale gave to creating the modern nursing profession, work to make hospitals safer and make disease prevention a priority — points well worth remembering now.
Do we really want “fake news” during this coronavirus pandemic?
Nightingale Bicentenary and the Coronavirus Pandemic
So many great events for the Bicentenary were cancelled. Some, let us hope, will be re-scheduled for next year, when we hope life will be more normal again. As for those scheduled or re-scheduled for the autumn, who knows?
Several events were scheduled early enough to happen:
- Feb. 14-15 2020: The European Association for the History of Nursing, held in Florence , a wonderful event, beginning with a reception at a palazzo. Several papers were on Nightingale, one by me, but most were not. The coronavirus was presumably then circulating in Italy, but this was not yet known. The sun shone!
- Feb. 28 2020: The Radical Statistics conference held in London. I gave the keynote speech: “Florence Nightingale and Statistics: What She Did and What She Did Not.” A published version of this is in Significance, a journal of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association.
- On the down side, the first paper at that conference, by two people from the Royal College of Nursing, although not on Nightingale, yet opened with a statement that, unfortunately, the lady with the lamp held nursing back.
- March 5 2020: Florence Nightingale Museum reception and viewing of its new exhibition. Congratulations to Dave Green and his team. The new exhibition is terrific. The reception was well attended, and the speakers were excellent (of course the Museum is now closed).
- March 6 2020. The biennial conference of the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation, held in London. This organization’s website omits any mention that 2020 is the Bicentenary of Nightingale’s birth, although it features 2020 as the “Year of the Nurse and Midwife.” Yet 2020 was chosen by the World Health Organization precisely on account of it being the bicentenary of the founder. Worse, a plenary speaker, Baroness Scotland, director-general of the Commonwealth Secretariat, made three mentions of Nightingale in her remarks, each time linking Nightingale’s name with that of Mary Seacole, as if the two were similar in their contributions to nursing and midwifery, but she gave no examples of anything Seacole did to help found the profession.
- As well, when the omission of mention of the bicentenary was brought to the attention of the executive director, with an example of how the American Nurses Association noted the bicentenary and Year of the Nurse and Midwife, the reply was firm: that “nurses don’t need to be exclusive,” which meant that Nightingale would be excluded.
- On the up side, the remarks on Nightingale made by Lord Crisp, former director-general of the National Health Service, were very positive. Deva Marie Beck, the last speaker, made a superb presentation on Nightingale — wonderful visuals. This Deva is making available and I hope a link will be circulated.
- As well, other speakers, such as Anne-Marie Rafferty, president of the Royal College of Nursing, made positive contributions about Nightingale in their remarks. A number of people signed up for the Nightingale Society.
- March 8: a trip to Lea Hurst by Laurie Gottlieb and her “strengths-based nursing” team, who presented a symposium at the Commonwealth nurses conference.
Cancelled events: my papers/talks include March 23 at the Royal Statistical Society, London; April 21 and 22, Leeds Lotherton and the Leeds General Infirmary; May 4 at the British Library (with David Spiegelhalter, Mark Bostridge and Anne Marie Rafferty). What looked like a superb day at Oxford on Nightingale and statistics, ending with a dinner at Balliol College, was cancelled.
Two letters to co-sign
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Nightingale Society meeting.
This did take place, on March 5, chaired by the Robert Dingwall, attended by 8 members, at the Faculty of Public Health, London.
Highlights: (1) update on Bicentenary events, particularly on statistics (Eileen Magnello); (2) Paul Crawford reported on the Univ of Nottingham project (book publication expected this summer); (3) ongoing efforts to get long-term recognition of Nightingale, such as in an annual lecture (Lynn McDonald reported on setbacks and lack of concrete results); (4) a letter to the secretary of state for health, Rt Hon Matt Hancock, was circulated for signature, on long-term recognition of Nightingale, and recognition of Kofoworola Abeni Pratt, the first black nurse in the National Health Service, and the leader in establishing professional nursing in Africa (however, on account of the coronavirus, this letter has not yet been sent). (5) remarks by Grace Benson on nursing and Nightingale in New Zealand; (6) note on the planned unveiling the Nightingale “Calling” window at Romsey Abbey.