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Exhibition celebrates nursing leaders

Exhibition celebrates nursing leaders

Florence NightingaleA new exhibition is paying tribute to 300 years of nursing leaders including Florence Nightingale, who were pioneers during times of social change, war and increased public expectations.

The exhibition shows how influential nursing leaders from the last three centuries have shaped modern-day nursing. Located in the Heritage Room, at the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, the exhibition celebrates nurses who trained and worked at St George’s Hospital.

Among the artefacts on display are a restored cap and lace belonging to Florence Nightingale, who became an honorary governor at St George’s in 1856. They also include letters written by her – such as one in which she berates the governors of St George’s Hospital for the poor quality of its bread – and one in which she sends Christmas wishes to a Dr McDonald.

Photograph of assistant matron uniform exhibitAlso on display for the first time, is a desk belonging to former St George’s matron Dame Muriel Powell, nursing badges dating back to the 18th century, an assistant matron uniform, an ornate mirror from the old School of Nursing at St George’s Hospital’s Hyde Park Corner site, and a bronze statue of Florence Nightingale. Visitors can also hear some of the St George’s nurses telling their own stories, drawn from the Nurses’ Voices oral history archive held at the Faculty.

Through historical pictures and displays, the Heritage Room highlights some of the many nursing education innovators at St George’s. Among them is Muriel Powell, who believed that education was the key to better nursing care and started a short course for graduates, which is still in place today in a form adapted to meet modern challenges. Her vision paved the way for London’s first degree-level nursing programme. Other influential nurse leaders showcased include Baroness Audrey Emerton and Professor Dame Jenifer Wilson-Barnett, who was invited to open the Heritage Room.

Professor Fiona Ross, dean of the Faculty of Health, Social Care and EducationProfessor Fiona Ross, dean of the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, steered the Heritage Room project.

She said: “There is a lot we can learn from the past and, as the guardian of some interesting artefacts, we wanted to present them to tell a story of nursing at St George’s that would have meaning for a wide audience as well as the profession. We have tried to show how nurse leaders have influenced modern nursing, and made it what it is today.

“We wanted to pay tribute to the commitment and contribution of those distinguished St George’s nurses who believed that education is vital to prepare good nurses who are not just skilled, but are proud to care.

“It is no coincidence that so many influential nurse leaders have come from the St George’s stable, and that the School of Nursing today is a thriving and successful part of the Faculty, a unique joint venture in higher education between St George’s, University of London and Kingston University.”

The Heritage Room is available for public viewing by appointment, and will be open for guided tours at the St George’s Community Open Day on 18 June, 10am-3pm.