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Celebrating Florence Nightingale and Health Workers

by Michael Ford last modified 15 May, 2020 11:41 AM

Health workers were celebrated alongside Florence Nightingale in Sunday's National Service.

The Church of England's online service on Sunday celebrated the work of nurses and healthcare workers as it marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Bishop Sarah Mullally, the most senior female bishop in the Church of England and a former Chief Nursing Officer for England, led the service, with the Gospel reading from St John read by the present Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May.

In her sermon, Bishop Sarah spoke of the cost that has been paid by nurses and midwives on the frontline of tackling coronavirus, and the need to support them now and in the long term.

She said that the nation is “enormously grateful” for their work:

“This year is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. It would have been filled with events to celebrate their contribution to health and society.

“Instead, Covid-19 means that this year is filled with acts of compassion done by nurses and midwives, for which we are enormously grateful.”

Bishop Sarah added that Florence Nightingale, who was in the front line in the battle to save lives and control infection during the Crimean War, knew of the long-term cost of her experiences - and that the ‘hardest of challenges’ could only be overcome with the support of others.

“If we are going to really celebrate nurses and midwives this year, we need to support them through the cost that they have paid, and to continue to support them when all this is over.”

Earlier in the service Bishop Sarah spoke about her “two careers” – as a nurse and a priest – and how they come from one vocation – to follow Jesus Christ:

“People often ask me what it is like to have had two careers, one as a nurse and one as a priest.

“I will often respond saying that I have had one vocation, to follow Jesus Christ and to make his love and compassion known. I have sought to live my life in the service of others, like so many others do.”

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said:

“The NHS is a diverse, international family and I believe part of our core strength to deal with the challenges we face comes from across all beliefs and faiths.

“Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on nurses, midwives and all our health and care staff – they have put in extra hours to provide expert care for many thousands of patients and their families, for which I pay heartfelt thanks.”

The service featured contributions from nurses who spoke of their experience of working throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Community palliative care specialist Rachel Mead and Felicia Kwaku, Associate Director of Nursing and Head of Nursing Planned Medicine at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London, spoke of how their Christian faith has helped them during the pandemic.

Ms Kwaku, a nurse for more than 30 years, told of the “honour and privilege” of caring for patients and working alongside “amazing” staff. She adds that the loss of her beloved uncle three weeks ago to coronavirus has deepened her personal reflection on the impact of the pandemic:

“This biggest challenge has been seeing the pain and suffering during this pandemic.

“I have seen suffering for both patients, their loved ones and staff.

“On some occasions, the staff have also had to cope with the loss of their own loved ones or people they know.

“I experience God’s presence by starting the day with thanksgiving to God but also I pray for patients and staff all across the world.

“I see every day as a blessing and my faith as a Christian has enabled me to cope with this unprecedented time.”

Ms Mead, from Weybridge, Surrey, with 33 years of experience as a nurse, spoke of how the prayers of friends and of her church, St Peter’s in Chertsey, Surrey, have been “vital” in recent weeks, in giving her peace and strength to cope with the challenges of the pandemic:

“The prayers of faithful friends and my church community have been vital in recent weeks, giving me peace and strength in challenging times."

Watch the service here.

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