Late during the summer term last year, I was invited to represent Plymouth University at the Florence Nightingale Conference in St Thomas’s Hospital, London. It was a great experience to meet other student nurses, alongside many members of the nursing field who are highly regarded across our profession. The conference composed of a question and answer session with a panel of scholars from the Florence Nightingale Trust, a visit to the Florence Nightingale Museum and a commemorative service in Westminster Abbey.
Initially, we were split up into groups to talk about different components that affect nursing, for example education and practice, clinical leadership and research. We also had the opportunity to ask our own questions to the panel. My question that I proposed to the panel regarded how nursing and, specifically paediatric nursing, can appeal to young men like myself. This issue is of high importance to me, as men are massively outnumbered in this field of work, and this is a matter that should be addressed. Personally, I believe that there are many young males within society that would excel in the nursing profession. Yet, there is insufficient public awareness and a lack of roles models to draw their interest to the nursing profession, and we lose many to education degrees. I think that a model similar to the one currently being used to attract girls into engineering should be developed to promote nursing to a wider audience of applicants. I asked the panel if they saw this as a problem in our profession. If so, how can nursing attract young males, especially with the loss of the bursary? This question provoked a 40 minute discussion around these topics. All parts of the panel agreed that this is a problem and proposed a similar idea to the STEM model. They also thought that getting into colleges and school sixth forms to talk to young men about nursing would be worthwhile. My group were able to compile a few questions, which mainly regarded which course of action the panel thought best to close the gap between clinical environment and university.
The panel were very knowledgeable, and encouraged us to open up and talk about how much we are enjoying our course and what problems we are facing. It was great to integrate with the other nurses from multiple different backgrounds, this led to increasingly interesting discussions and it was great to network with them.
In the evening we went to a commemorative service at Westminster Abbey. We were given the chance to walk around the famous abbey and absorb the atmosphere. Whilst in Westminster Abbey we were able to visit the chapel of nurses, which has a stained glass window paying respects to the work that nurses do and have done in the past. The service allowed me to reflect on what it means to be a nurse, what the future of nursing is and to remember how far this profession has come.
The overall experience was incredible, it was an event that I would definitely attend again and something that I would suggest my fellow peers attend.