Hospital trust marks International Nurses' Day by honouring all nursing staff

Gail Byrne Banksy

All nursing staff at University Hospital Southampton have been recognised with a top honour for “rising to the challenge” of COVID-19.

Gail Byrne, chief nursing officer at UHS, has dedicated her annual ‘nurse of the year’ award to all 3,500 nurses across the organisation for the first time.

UHS holds a yearly ceremony to celebrate the achievements of nurses, midwives and healthcare support staff to coincide with International Nurses’ Day.

As it is unable to go ahead this year due to the pandemic, staff will be urged to shine a light from their windows at 8.30pm to mark the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

“This year will be a different celebration than planned but a celebration none the less of what you do each and every day in caring for our patients,” said Ms Byrne, pictured above, in a letter to nursing staff.

“It will be a celebration of how you have risen to the challenge of working differently and a celebration of how you are working together in these difficult times whether you are working in the hospital or currently supporting us in roles remotely.

“In my eyes you are all superheroes and it is a privilege to be your nursing leader, thank you is not enough, but on behalf of the senior nursing team, the Trust and the public it is sincerely meant.

“We would normally be holding our nurses’ day celebrations and awards today, which we will do this at some point, but my chief nursing officer ‘nurse of the year’ award this year goes to….all of you.”

Ms Byrne said there were lessons to be learnt from Nightingale’s focus on leadership and infection control, as well as the psychological impact of her involvement caring for British troops in the Crimean War.

“Florence advocated for the role of the nurse, a pioneer of modern nursing, she was a reformer, a statistician and a great leader but, more importantly, she recognised the impact of great leadership and infection control practice,” she said.

“Two hundred years later there are lessons to be learnt for us in this current environment, which is our strong collective leadership and stringent oversight of infection control.

”I am cognisant that she also did not come back from the Crimea unscathed so we need to look after each other like we never have.”


Meanwhile, more than 500 young musicians from across the world have come together to mark International Nurses’ Day, dedicating their latest ensemble to UHS. The Virtual Youth Orchestra was set up at the start of the pandemic to ensure young people still had the opportunity to perform. 

Musical director Alex Pope has put together an arrangement of The Rembrandts' chart hit ‘I’ll Be There For You’, made popular as the theme tune of the popular sitcom Friends, and dedicated to staff at UHS. Find out more and watch at

UHS was also represented in a special event at Westminster Abbey where senior clinical research nurse Arlene Lee, who is part of the NIHR Clinical Research Network Wessex and based at UHS, was the only nurse invited to visit the Nurses' Memorial Chapel where the Nightingale lamp is kept.

Posted on Tuesday 12 May 2020