COVID-19: A very different Nurses’ Day

 Dame Donna Kinnair 14 May 2020 Chief Executive and General Secretary

Dame Donna Kinnair reflects on this year’s Nurses’ Day and building a better future for nursing.

Despite all the restrictions (and the notable lack of cupcakes on social media), Nurses’ Day this year felt incredibly special.

It also felt very different.

The hundreds of thousands of messages being shared weren’t just expressions of thanks or gratitude. They were sincere recognition of the work we do.

I certainly can’t recall a day when so much of what we do as a profession was celebrated so widely across society – fitting, considering that it is International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. That the Royal Family recorded a video thanking nursing staff in the UK and beyond was unprecedented.

Our ambassador Emilia Clarke did so much to help us showcase your work, reaching over a million people within hours of the video being released. There were reflections from across society, including from our patients and health and care professionals too, about what they value about our profession.

The one thing that will stay with me, came from somewhere unexpected.

Pupils at a school in Horndean, Hampshire, were asked to complete a worksheet about International Nurses’ Day. One of them decided to write a poem and I wanted to share a few lines:

Mentally and physically exhausted beyond belief
With each survivor a huge breath of relief

I so pray you feel rewarded each and every day
By the love and adoration the nation is sending your way

One day we will look back on this
And think how did we cope
Thankful to all on the frontline that never gave up hope 

Through the dedication and professionalism you are displaying, we are told that more people are considering a career in nursing. Maybe this pupil from Horndean will be one of those you’ve inspired.

But what will the future of nursing look like, post COVID-19? What kind of profession will they join?

Many people have asked me these questions and asked what I will be calling for once the pandemic has passed.

I can assure you of this: any move toward pay freezes for any of our workforce – as reported in the press yesterday - is the exact opposite of what we expect, and what you deserve. We will make sure that no government forgets the professionalism demonstrated by all nursing staff during this pandemic and before it.

But these aren’t just questions for me – they are for all of us. Our College, our professional union, is more than 450,000 strong. We are students, nursing support workers, nursing associates and nurses working in every setting, in every community, across the whole of the UK.

I can only speak on your behalf when I have heard from you.

Next week, we will start a conversation, which will continue over the coming months, across our entire membership.

I need to hear from you all, regardless of your employer, specialism or setting. I want to hear how you want things to change. Every single contribution is a critical part of how we pull together our plan for nursing. What kind of future do you want?

My strong feeling is that we will look back on 12 May 2020 as the start of the next wave of transformation in our profession.

Dame Donna Kinnair

Dame Donna Kinnair

Chief Executive & General Secretary

Prior to her appointment as Acting Chief Executive & General Secretary, Dame Donna was Director of Nursing, Policy and Practice and worked with UK-wide RCN staff to drive and implement RCN professional nursing, policy and practice strategy.

Before joining the RCN, Donna held various roles, including Clinical Director of Emergency Medicine at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust.
Donna advised the PM’s Commission on the future of Nursing and Midwifery in 2010 and served as nurse/child health assessor to the Victoria Climbié Inquiry.

Page last updated - 14/05/2020