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Former director of Florence Nightingale Foundation pays tribute to today’s nurses

Former director of Florence Nightingale Foundation pays tribute to today’s nurses

Mary Spinks pictured in her garden with a Florence Nightingale Rose, a variety named after the founder of modern nursing.

A former director of the Florence Nightingale Foundation has paid a personal tribute to today’s nurses battling the coronavirus, pointing out the strong parallels with ‘the Lady with the lamp’.

Speaking on Tuesday - International Nurses Day and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale - Mary Spinks pointed out how the founder of modern nursing had comforted soldiers dying alone in the Crimean War.

She said: “Florence Nightingale is remembered for being the Lady with the lamp. She took names of soldiers dying far from home and wrote to their families to pass on messages to their loved ones.

“Today the same thing is happening in our hospitals with people dying from the virus without being able to see their families and the nurses are once again communicating with their loved ones. It’s a very strong parallel."

Mary, who was awarded a CBE in 2010 after a 52-year career in nursing, was director of the Florence Nightingale Foundation from 1996-2010, raising substantial funds to increase the number of scholarships for research, travel and leadership to develop nurses’ careers in the modern NHS. She is now an honorary vice-president of the organisation.

For 14 years Mary organised the annual service held at Westminster Abbey to mark the birthday of Florence Nightingale. It is usually attended by about 2,200 people, including the three matrons-in-chief from the armed services but will not take place this year due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

 “I had a little weep that I was not going to be there and we were not holding the ceremony this year,” said Mary, who is a leading member of the Rotary Club of Maidenhead and due to take over as its president in July.

Mary, who lives in Maidenhead, came to England from Cork to train as a nurse in 1958 and on qualifying she spent 15 years in theatre nursing.

She became chairman of the National Association of Theatre Nurses and continued her career in nurse management to become Regional Nursing Officer for North East Thames.

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