Calling all nurses working in the time of Covid-19
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Monday, 6 April 2020

Nurses in the time of COVID-19

Did anyone else’s heart sink or eyes roll just a little at the naming of the new NHS Nightingale Hospital in East London – the Nightingale name soon to be replicated in a number of locations around England? Scotland, at least have named their hospital after Scottish nurse Louisa Jordan.

Until the last week, nurses have been virtually absent from the political discussions, policy development or media broadcasting.  Nurses have been denied a seat at the table when the purchase of ventilators and PPE was discussed – yet they have more sustained contact with patients than anybody else.

It took the bombshell, dropped calmly by RCN general secretary and chief executive, Donna Kinnair at Question Time on 2 April 2020, that the numbers of nurses dying in the UK from Covid-19, was not being counted, for nurses to be noticed at all. As a result, next day, the chief nursing officer, Ruth May appeared for the first time at the daily Covid-19 press conference. Her appearance, again calm and respectful of all healthcare workers, brought a refreshing change from the usual wartime talk of battles, fights and Dunkirk spirit.
Until this point, the lone nursing voice in the field has been that of Nicki Credland, Chair of the British Association of Critical Care Nurses (BACCN) and a Lecturer in Critical Care and Advanced Practice at the University of Hull. Not afraid to speak truth to power Ms Credland, has said, she doesn’t think government understand that nurses do more than ‘make tea and pat you on the head’. I don’t think they understand that it is a safety critical profession’, she told me.
The conversion of the Excel Centre in East London into 4000 beds with supportive services in just nine days, was remarkable. A fantastic feat of modern day logistics. For this reason, if no other, the naming of the hospital is fitting - there is no doubt that Florence Nightingale would have been up to the task of designing a hospital of this size and mobilising a workforce to fill it – estimated to be some 200 people per 42 bed ward, including ancillary and support staff.

Florence used mathematical modelling and drawings to illustrate the effect of infectious diseases as well as battlefield wounds on soldiers in the Crimea. She also played a large part in the design of St Thomas’ Hospital in London - where the prime minister, who has coronovrius is currently being cared for. At a time when germ theory was still not fully understood, she recognised the importance of design for improving hygiene and health and calculated the dimensions and efficient use of space in hospital. She proposed full-height windows at specified intervals in the wards, with the beds set between to encourage ventilation and allow air to circulate without creating draughts. She stipulated that clean and dirty areas should be separate so food and clean linen were stored at the ward entry with washing and sanitary facilities at the other end. The so-called Nightingale wards.

But it was not for any of these reasons that her name was taken in vain for the new Covid-19 hospitals; it was because of the sentimentality about nursing that her name invokes among politicians and the media.

Nursing has a hugely rich history but so little of it is chronicled or appreciated outside of nursing academic circles. That and the fact that virtually all nurses over the last 100 years have been women, adds to their invisibility.

It is to raise their profile, celebrate their skills, their commitment and their sheer importance in this pandemic, that I am chronicling their experiences for record  If you are a nurse, whether at the frontline of patient care, delivering education and training to nurses or developing policy, please get in touch with your stories, via this website, via twitter @Claire_Laurent or email me at:
#nurse #COVID-19 #Nightingale #criticalcare #RCN