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Countdown to London 2020 – Episode 1 ‘Nursing and London: connecting with history’

Mark Foulkes RGN, BSc (Hons), MSc (Nurse Consultant and Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse – Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust)

Greetings to cancer nurses across the world. It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat to you via this new blog. I will be writing regularly as we move towards the ICCN conference in 2020 in London.

Perhaps an introduction is in order? My name is Mark Foulkes and I am a Nurse Consultant and the Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. In practice this means I work in a Cancer Centre (providing radiotherapy and chemotherapy) in a large town around 30 miles west of London. I work in our Acute Oncology team assessing and caring for patients who are brought into hospital either with side-effects of cancer treatment, cancer-related symptoms or those who have been diagnosed with a new cancer following a hospital admission. I am also a Board Member for the UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS), where I lead for cancer nurse education.

UKONS are working in partnership with the ISNCC to bring you this conference and we are thrilled that London has been chosen to host the event. It is particularly apt that London is the venue in 2020, as next year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale and the WHO ‘Year of the Nurse’. London is a sort of ‘homecoming’ for the ICCN as the conference was founded by Robert Tiffany in London in 1984. So other than this ‘alignment of stars’ and a superb conference line-up (details will follow in the next few weeks and months) what can London offer cancer nurses in terms of connections with our history and the history of medicine?

Let’s start with Florence Nightingale herself. Regarded as the inventor of modern nursing, Nightingale set up the first school of nursing at St Thomas’s Hospital in London in 1860 following her return from the Crimean War and her belief that good sanitation and cleanliness would save patients lives. The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing is now part of Kings College Hospital, but the original buildings can still be seen at The Florence Nightingale Museum at St.Thomas’ Hospital, where the Guy’s and St.Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust still award the Nightingale badge to nurses who complete nurse education and training at the hospital.

Another famous nurse who built her reputation in the Crimean War was Mary Seacole. Mary Seacole was a British-Jamaican woman who has been honoured as the greatest black Briton. She was based in London for much of her life and died in Paddington in London in 1881. She is buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery (part of Kensal Rise Cemetery) in North West London and the Mary Seacole Statue can be viewed at St Thomas’s Hospital.

Another London site that might be of interest to the ICCN 2020 delegates, and indeed to nurses in general, is one of the oldest operating theatres in the world. Housed in the attic of the early eighteenth-century church of the old St Thomas’ Hospital. This atmospheric museum offers a unique insight into the history of medicine and surgery. The timber building was once used to dry and store herbs for patients’ medicines but, in 1822, an operating theatre was added. The theatre predates such luxuries as anaesthetics and antiseptics, and it is the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe. Finally, no ‘nursing tour’ of London would be complete without a visit to the Royal College of Nursing’s Library and Heritage Centre, which has exhibitions integrating stories from nurses themselves and items from their unique collection.

I hope this has given you a taste of the nursing history that London has to offer, and I hope you can attend the ICCN 2020. I will return in a few weeks with another blog focusing on cancer nursing in the UK and the role of the UK Oncology Nursing society (UKONS). You can register for ICCN 2020 in London here: iccn2020.org

If you have any questions about the content of this blog feel free to contact me at mark.foulkes@royalberkshore.nhs.uk

Mark will be a regular contributor in the leadup to the International Conference on Cancer Nursing (ICCN) 2020 in London, commencing March 1, 2020. Mark is a nurse consultant and Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, UK. He is UKONS Board Member and is very enthusiastic about improving cancer nurse education.