Celebrating Pioneering Nurses

Categories: Care, Featured, Leadership, Must Read, and People & Places.


2020 marked the Year of the Nurse and Midwife; an opportunity to celebrate nursing and to mark the work and the life of its founder, Florence Nightingale, who was born 200 years previously. Florence Nightingale, a leader and reformer, radically changed healthcare in the course of her life and in the two centuries since through practice, education and the generation of knowledge. She continues to serveas an important role model, from which contemporary nurses can learn and model their approach to advance their profession. On this basis, and in celebration of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, St Christopher’s Hospice began a programme called Celebrating Palliative and End of Life Nursing. We are now pleased to update ehospice readers on the progress of this programme and invite you to draw on some of our learning to shape your intentions about nursing for the future.

“Celebrating Palliative and End of Life Nursing” programme

Our programme “Celebrating Palliative and End of Life Nursing” has three strands – a celebration of contemporary pioneer nurses, development of a new model of care for nursing at the end of life and a series of conferences and articles designed to encourage nurses to look up and out and find new opportunities for the future.  Our focus today is on the pioneering nurses we have had the pleasure to get to know. Other elements are described on our website https://www.stchristophers.org.uk/yearofthenurse/

Pioneering nurses in Palliative and End of Life Care

Our efforts to find and celebrate the work of contemporary pioneering nurses began with a deep dive into the life and work of Florence Nightingale and Cicely Saunders – two nurses whose careers radically changed the experiences of dying people. We visited relevant archives, reviewed the literature, their own writing and books written about their efforts. What was striking was the similarities in their approach, many of their characteristics and their sheer tenacity. Drawing on a thematic analysis approach we identified key attributes that they shared and which we thought we might find in contemporary pioneering nurses. The attributes are described in the figure below. More information on what these attributes look like in practice are available on https://www.stchristophers.org.uk/pioneeringnurses/.



Once these had been identified we began to search far and wide for nurses who others felt embodied at least 2/3 of these attributes. We have not been disappointed in our efforts. Nurses and other leaders across the world have identified nurses that they consider to be pioneers. We are now in contact with 31nurses, from 15 nations all of whom we recognise as pioneers.


They come from a broad range of contexts of care – well beyond hospices and palliative care centres and are mixed in terms of length of service as a nurse. As a result the community that they form is rich and diverse. Individually and together they offer new insights into what being a contemporary nurse leader demands, and the opportunities they envisage to continue the work of Florence Nightingale, Cicely Saunders and many others to change healthcare going forward. They are tenacious and resilient as people and their vision and stories are inspiring and offer promise for the profession of nursing; building on, and beyond, COVID-19. Ehospice will be featuring some of these nurses in the coming weeks and we invite you to read their amazing stories. To find out more about the Celebrating Nursing programme at St Christopher’s contact M.Cooper@stchristophers.org.uk or visit our website.


Heather Richardson

Marie Cooper




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