12th May 2019

Today marks the anniversary of my installation as the 133rd Bishop of London.  It occurs on International Nurses day. My clasp on my God Cope is my Nurses Buckle and here is the address I gave at the Nightingale Nurse Awards on Friday.

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Address given at the Nightingale Nurse Awards to celebration International Nurses Day 10th May 2019 Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

I am delighted to be here today; it has been my privilege to have been a nurse. My training as a Nightingale has shaped who I am and whilst I am not now a registered nurse – you can take the nurse out of nursing but never nursing out of the nurse.  Following my time as the government’s Chief Nursing Office I moved into the Church but continued as a Non-Executive of NHS Trusts and now as an independent governor at Kings College London University all because of my passion for nursing.

On the 12th May 2018 (Florence Nightingale’s Birthday) I was installed as the 133rd Bishop of London the first to be a women and I could not do what I do today if it was not for my faith and if I had not undertaken the training I was privilege to have been part of – it has enlarged by capacity to be with people, to stay with them when it would be easier to walk away, it has developed within in me a reflective practitioner and the ability to apply a theoretical framework for which I am grateful.

Today we celebrate nursing and midwifery and mark your achievement.

If you haven’t guessed already I am a great fan of nurses and midwives and the NHS. As  a former Chief Nursing Officer, I have seen some of the best care in the NHS not just in this country but across the world and I am often reminded that the most extra ordinary nursing care is seen in the ordinary acts carried out day after day by nurses.

Since I started nursing over 30 years ago much has changed.  No longer are there frilly hats or starched aprons or back rounds and nurses are no longer only known by their surnames. Life expectancy has increased, although one in every two born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer more people are surviving, and babies are surviving when we only would have dreamed of it.

I have to say that I am not sure I would have what it takes to nurse today – 12-hour shifts, the dependency of patients has increase, expectation of nurses and midwives has increased, and public expectation has changed.

What hasn’t changed is that at the heart of nursing and every nurse I believe is compassion and kindness.

Nursing is not just about being technically effective or competent or skilled or what you do it is about how you do it – I believe that the art of nursing is in the application of the science. I have learnt that what makes the difference to the care people receive is often about the ordinary which makes the extra ordinary difference.  How they are afforded respect, dignity and value, how their loneliness and anxiety is relieved. Never forget that you may have carried out a procedure 100s of times for those you care for it is the first time they may have gone through it.

It is kindness and compassion which make the real difference – putting patients first.

Kindness is one of the most underrated virtues in today’s world. It isn’t bland or soft or feeble or weak. Kindness comes when, even where it isn’t deserved, we dare to offer an opening to humanity and mercy, regardless of cost or reward. It is more than being nice and it can be very demanding in certain circumstances.

Compassion comes from the two Latin words “Com” meaning with and “passio” meaning to suffer. Compassion is an attitude of heart and of mind. It is more than being nice to someone for one moment, it is a word which recognizes that a level of commitment is required, and it acknowledges that we need one another. Compassion requires us to be present not thinking about what we have done or what we are about to do but with someone alongside them. Compassion is not always easy, it is hard work, frustrating and requires persistence and passion.

Compassion and kindness have been the concern of those involved in the Health Service across the centuries. Historically, developing the “compassionate character” was the impetus for care, and gave the nursing profession its ethos. In Florence Nightingale’s view, good nurses were good people who cultivated certain virtues or qualities in their character – one of which was compassion. Patients were expected to be the centre of all nurses’ thoughts. Nurses had to always be kind (but never emotional) because they were caring for living people, unlike plumbers or carpenters.

However, I have often reflected that nurses reflect our society and reflect the compassion of our society.  In my present life one of my challenges is how I, how the church play’s its part in making a more compassionate world.

In a world which is becoming more complex nurses are rightly being trained to degree level and further and taking more roles, but the demonstration of compassion becomes even more important. Our training of nurses needs to include the training of compassion and kindness.

Do not underestimate your ability to make an extra ordinary difference to the lives of others.  You can make a difference to individuals, but also to healthcare.

I know that life is often pressured, kindness and compassion need time and resources and I know that you may feel that the structures, resources and systems push kindness and compassion out but do not under estimate your ability to change those.be the change you want to see in the world.

Having trained at the Nightingale School of nursing I have a complex view of Florence Nightingale however she does continue to be a model for us as nurses. She saw how you had the ability to care for the individual and to change the systems and structures to enable more kind and compassion healthcare.

Anne – Marie Rafferty writes

“We can read Nightingale as a credo for compassion today. She recognised that systems needed to foster and institutionalise compassion, and that small touches and details mattered. Leading by example and embedding a code of behaviour that could be sustained even in your absence was and should remain our goal today.

The challenges we see in care are not new. We continue to fail the most vulnerable members of our society. We need to acknowledge there is a problem, accept responsibility and understand the dynamics of why some organisations succeed and others fail.

Clarity of purpose, moral courage and a coalition for action was Nightingale’s response to the call. We need to do likewise – to light and lead the way.”

Let us not just celebrate our past in nursing and midwifery today but celebrate the nurses of today.  I pray for you and I also pray for nurses and midwives of tomorrow.

About Sarah Mullally

If you wanted a blog run by an experienced blogger look elsewhere - I am a beginner. I am a mum, Bishop, Dame and poor potter - welcome.
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2 Responses to 12th May 2019

  1. Julia Halpin says:

    Thank you also bishop Sarah for your support of Parish Nursing, bringing nursing skills visibly to add to the pastoral care offered by churches.
    Every blessing
    Julia Halpin

  2. acdodwell says:

    Thank you for this- good to see a sermon in praise of kindness. Hope you’ve had a good first year, that the flat is now sorted (or was it the lift?) and that Eammon is well- we still miss you here in N Devon and you’re in my prayers frequently. I’m still rural deaning (thanks for that) and about to go on sabbatical with great plans to do very little. Every blessing, Andy

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