International Nurses Day: Reflecting on 75 Years
Every year on 12 May, we celebrate International Nurses Day - a day dedicated to honouring the invaluable contributions of nurses to healthcare systems around the world.
This year, staff across the NHS have the perfect opportunity to celebrate 75 years of innovation and high-quality patient care that nurses and other healthcare professions, have brought to our NHS and beyond.
To mark today, and the start of our NHS 75 celebrations, Allison Newell, Executive Director of Strategy, Performance, Business Development and Growth at the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), reflects on the NHS’ 75th birthday, and how nursing, the wider health and care sector and the colleagues she has worked with has helped shape who she is today.
Having started my career as a nurse over 40 years ago in the NHS, I am proud to be part of the community of nurses. Growing up in a medical family, I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare, but was not totally sure what career path to take, and after leaving school I found myself applying and being accepted to start my student nurse training at the Derby School of Nursing, along with 40 other new colleagues.
Being a nurse was immensely rewarding, fulfilling, and meaningful. Making a positive impact on a person’s life, caring for and supporting them to maintain their optimal health and well-being, or supporting them throughout different life stages is still so important to me. There were so many good times, being involved in birth and new life, giving good news as well as helping people with their “new normal.” I feel very privileged having being involved and included in very personal and vulnerable times of people’s lives. However, there were also challenges and for me, one of the hardest things was being part of talking to people about the loss of someone.
From my time at Derby Royal Infirmary, lifetime connections were formed, with many of us coming together in Derby, to celebrate our 40th anniversary. It was truly lovely to be with friends and colleagues again, to reflect on our early training days together, the experiences we shared, coupled with the different sectors and areas we all went onto work in.
Whilst I had not seen some of my student colleagues for several years, once together, years faded and it was like we had not long been apart, we laughed, we remembered, and we marvelled at how much things and care had changed over the years. Looking back, I could not have appreciated then how instrumental becoming a nurse would be in introducing me to so many incredible people and colleagues, who with a shared purpose would work together to care for the people and communities we either lived in or who we supported.
Being a nurse has shaped me as person, my life, and my career, by bringing multiple opportunities of expanding my education and knowledge through working in different countries and health systems across the world with many amazing colleagues and organisations. It also made me appreciate how incredible life is, how fragile it can be, and I never cease to marvel at how resilient people can be whilst at the same time so vulnerable - life can and does change in a nano second.
I have always been interested and curious in learning and understanding new things, which led me to seek out new experiences and opportunities, of which there are many within the NHS. In looking to the future and new ways of working, in one of my roles, I was asked to develop and lead on the implementation of a 24-hour clinical contact centre, which 25 years ago was quite transformational, as it enabled people and patients to access health and care guidance whenever they needed to by phone. The development of Virtual Wards, digital health and care solutions today are the next iteration and I know from my own personal use of them, they make massive impacts on people’s lives and outcomes.
I am so pleased to have been able to take the opportunities to work internationally as well, and I have been fortunate to work in the Caribbean, USA, Europe, South Africa, Asia, Middle East, Australia, New Zealand and more. The education, learning, and insight that I have gained from working in so many countries has enriched my life, and made me grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the development and growth of a country’s health and care journey.
So, as well as celebrating International Nurses Day, and as someone who has worked in and alongside the NHS for many years, I am incredibly proud to be part of the NHS today as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of this incredible force for good. The NHS was founded on the principle of providing healthcare to everyone, and whilst it has been significantly tested with the Covid-19 Pandemic and other challenges, it has continued to adapt and evolve.
Fast forward to today, it has been great to be part of the leadership team at the NHSBSA for the last 5 years and to be included in Team CNO, led by Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England. Being involved in and seeing the commitment of colleagues to collaborate and do all they can to improve the lives of others is a great shared purpose.
I have very fond memories of being a nurse and my time working in the NHS. I look forward to seeing and being involved in the ongoing development of both Nursing and the NHS, for the benefit of us all.