Published: 12 May 2020
International Nurses Day is celebrated each year at an annual service in Westminster Abbey to commemorate the life of Florence Nightingale.
It is customary for a Florence Nightingale scholar to carry a lamp during the ceremony because during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale would carry a lamp at night to visit the wounded soldiers. The light would give hope to those she visited and has since become an international symbol of nursing.
This year, NIHR senior research nurse Arlene Lee was given the honour of carrying the lamp, on what would have been Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. 2020 has additional resonance because it has also been recognised by the World Health Organisation as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
This year’s service has been cancelled, due to COVID-19, but had it gone ahead, Arlene would have carried the lamp, gifted to the Florence Nightingale Foundation, on behalf and in honour of the 600,000 nurses and midwives in the UK, many of whom would have attended the commemorative service.
Arlene has worked for the NIHR for over ten years, and previously gained experience in malignant haematology and oncology and later as a bone marrow transplant unit sister.
She provides leadership and management for the core team of research nurses to help them to deliver high-quality clinical research.
Arlene was awarded a Florence Nightingale leadership scholarship for 2019/20 and is working collaboratively with the Florence Nightingale Foundation to improve the pastoral well-being of the healthcare workforce in the NHS.
Reflecting on the vital role that nurses and midwives play in clinical research, Arlene says:
“I am so proud to be able to represent my profession on International Nurses Day and recognise the values, skills and determination of our research community.
“Now, more than ever, we at the NIHR know how important it is to recruit patients into trials and gather the evidence that will help us to tackle this pandemic. So many of our research nurses and midwives have been supporting COVID-19 trials with great agility and fortitude, culminating in a transformational approach to recruiting patients to NIHR-funded studies over the past few months.”
Arlene is raising money for the White Rose Appeal, launched by the Florence Nightingale Foundation today, whereby members of public are being asked to buy an e-white rose in honour of a nurse or midwife who has helped them or a loved one at any point in their lives. Funds will go towards helping nurses and midwives working on the frontline during COVID-19 and beyond.