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International Nurses Day 2020: Royal Star & Garter celebrates nursing and care through the decades

Each year on May 12, celebrations take place around the world to mark International Nurses Day.

The date falls on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, and carries extra significance this year as it marks the 200th anniversary of her birth. As a result, 2020 has been designated as The Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Royal Star & Garter uses this day each year to pay tribute to the nurses and health care assistants (HCAs) who work together in their care homes providing loving, compassionate care to veterans and their partners living with disability or dementia. 

Staff celebrate by dressing up in the long-sleeved black dress, white apron and bonnet that are synonymous with Florence Nightingale, and making a fuss over the care team, serving drinks and delicious cakes.

International Nurses Day 2020

Although this year, the charity will not be able to celebrate the work of its nurses and carers in the usual way, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the bravery and dedication of its staff.

The nurses and HCAs at Royal Star & Garter’s three Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe play an invaluable role, providing care with love and courage to a group of people who have themselves displayed remarkable courage in their lives. 

This courage has been part of the very ethos of Royal Star & Garter since it was formed in 1916 to care for injured men returning from the battlefields of the First World War.

To celebrate International Nurses Day, here is a selection of black and white photos which illustrate the vital role nurses and carers have played in the charity’s long history.

1918 – Private Richards

From its very beginning, Royal Star & Garter’s work was more than just physical care – the carers used all their abilities to support men mentally too. This photo, taken in 1918, and just two years after the charity was formed, shows a nurse standing by and supporting Private Joseph W. Richards as he paints while holding a brush in his teeth. Private Richards was paralysed after suffering spinal injuries in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He said: “I didn’t half use a lot of brushes. I kept biting them in two.”

1920 – The Nurses

A portrait of Nurses Duffett, Mitchell and Porter, staff nurses of the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). They were well educated and had completed a three-year training course in a hospital approved by the War Office. All care staff were deeply committed to their work and formed warm relationships with the residents, who showed their appreciation through letters and sketches to the nurses.

1923 – Sports Day 

Nurses and carers have always been at the centre of activities and events at Royal Star & Garter – whether it’s caregiving or Sports Day events! Male and female staff competed against one another in games such as the Tug-of-War, as this example from a London hospital at the time, shows.

1933 – Matron Lawrence

Pictured above is Ida Lawrence, the first Matron of the Home, who retired in 1933 after 17 years in service, with her team of nurses. The British Red Cross Review summed up the special qualities Royal Star & Garter staff still display, when it said of her: “She possessed that wonderful gift of being able to put herself in the position of patients, who had a real friend in whom they could place their confidence and look up to for health and comfort.”

1943 – Walking Again

This 1943 photo captures the dedication and perseverance displayed by the charity’s care team, as two nurses help a resident walk on the terrace of the Richmond Home. Today at Royal Star & Garter, our physiotherapists and activities teams help residents with exercise and mobility, boosting fitness and well-being.

1945 – Sir Douglas Bader

Care staff have always been on hand to help residents at the Home in all variety of occasions. In this photo, one can be seen with residents during a visit by disabled flying ace Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader, when he came to visit the Home in 1945.

1948 – Archery competition

A nurse shows off her adaptability while helping out in the landmark archery competition held between Royal Star & Garter and Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1948. The event, which was organised by the hospital’s founder Dr Ludwig Guttmann, was the forerunner to the Paralympic Games.

1975 – Celebrating 50 Years

Royal Star & Garter prides itself on being a family, consisting of residents, relatives, staff and volunteers. Strong friendships develop when providing loving care, which means staff are able to share special occasions with residents. This photo shows Wally Barrett celebrating 50 years at the Home in 1975, with Chairman of the Governors, General Sir Charles Harington, Staff Nurse Downes, Matron Wadmore, and his wife Violet. Building bonds with residents remains key in Royal Star & Garter Homes, with staff learning about their interests to help form close connections. 

For similar articles visit our features section 

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