More than 1,000 nurses, advocates and supporters gathered at Washington National Cathedral on April 25 to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Florence Nightingale, the “Lady with the Lamp” whose pioneering approach laid the foundation for the modern profession of nursing. The event was part of a year-long series of activities across the globe, in celebration of the International Year of the Nurse.
The worldwide celebration marks the centennial of Nightingale’s death, and is the product of a collaboration among three organizations, the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, Sigma Theta Tau International and the Florence Nightingale Museum in London. The year-long slate of activities is also intended to foster support among nurses and others for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, combating HIV/AIDS and more.
The Cathedral event featured ecumenical prayers and calls to action from nursing leaders of several faiths, including a reflection from Leslie Mancuso, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., president and C.E.O. of Jhpiego, an international nonprofit health organization. Mancuso urged nurses to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s call to “be the change you want to see in the world.” She observed that “Florence Nightingale had a vision of a healthy world, and nurses have carried that light…believ[ing] that they are part of that change… As we look at the Millennium Development Goals,” she continued, “we know that there is so much to do.”
Praising nurses for their contributions across the globe—particularly in crisis circumstances, such as the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and the recent earthquake in Haiti, she urged her colleagues to “celebrate the achievement this profession has had, [and] let us carry the light….Let us join in our community of nurses to improve the health of this world.”
Deva-Marie Beck, Ph.D., R.N., international co-director of the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, read a poem, “The Flame of Florence Nightingale’s Legacy.” “May human caring become the lantern for the 21st Century,” she read. “May we better learn to care for ourselves, for each other and for all creation. Through our caring, may we be the keepers of that flame. That our spirits may burn brightly to kindle the hearts of our children and great-grandchildren as they, too, follow in these footsteps.” As she finished, the sun broke through the clouds of an otherwise overcast Washington day, streaming through the Cathedral’s massive West Rose stained glass window and bathing the nave in a red glow.
Among the participants in the service were the three U.S. recipients of the 2009 Annual International Red Cross Florence Nightingale Medal: Meredith J. Buck, B.S., R.N., a Pennsylvania disaster relief volunteer; Susan Hassmiller, Ph.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation senior advisor for nursing and director of the RWJF Initiative on the Future of Nursing, recognized for her disaster relief volunteer work; and Diana Whaley, B.S.N., R.N., of Tennessee, a disaster health services manager with the Knoxville Red Cross chapter. The Rev. Gwendolyn Tobias, a priest associate at the Cathedral and a former nursing student, acknowledged the three from the altar.
- Learn more about plans for the year, submit events to a combined calendar of activities, share personal stories or read more about the U.N. Millennial Development Goals at www.2010IYnurse.net.