NURSES’ compassion and commitment to patients were celebrated at the Great Western Hospital with a series of activities, talks and even a high-speed bed-making competition yesterday.

From an exhibition tracing the evolution of nursing across the centuries to testimonies from retired hospital staff, all aspects of the profession were placed in the spotlight during International Nurses Day.

The annual event was an occasion for managers and trainers not only to recognise GWH teams’ achievements but for staff to pay tribute to precursors in the field of care and sanitation, such as Florence Nightingale.

“Our tagline for the event is a quote from Florence Nightingale, ‘Making a difference every minute of every day’, and that’s what nurses do,” said Claire Barker, training and development manager at GWH.

“Nursing is hard work but it gives us great satisfaction and there is a lovely sense of giving. It’s lovely to step back and focus on what we do and recognise nurses’ passion.

“Nurses Day is about celebrating nursing and looking at its history – how the profession has grown – but also about having fun. Nursing has evolved tremendously and now you have nurses leading services and running their own clinics. It has pushed the boundaries, which is fantastic.

“It’s a great time to come into nursing and we want to secure the legacy of the hospital for patient care going forward.”

Old nursing uniforms as well as bedpans, large needles and even early 20th century haemorrhoid cream were on display at the Academy, as well as records and diaries kept by matrons dating as far back as 1935.

Prospective as well as qualified nurses hoping to work in acute care were also invited to find out more about opportunities available at GWH yesterday.

While in a celebratory mood, staff were conscious of the seriousness of the day in trying to regain the public’s trust following recent scandals elsewhere in the country.

“Our profession has got a bit of a bad reputation because of the bad press on certain hospitals and all the things that came out of Mid-Staffordshire,” said Rachael Evans, the clinical supervision coordinator charged with training newly qualified and international nurses. “Our job is hard and I always teach new nurses to have broad shoulders. There are bad eggs out there but we do a good job and it’s nice to have a day to celebrate nurses.”

The festivities culminated in the unveiling of the winning entries of the Nurses Day’s art competition. As part of the contest, staff’s children had been asked to draw or paint ‘a lovely nurse’. The pieces will now be on display on the ground floor of the hospital, by the physiotherapy department.