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Abbi Bott - My Florence Nightingale Student Day

Every May, the Florence Nightingale Foundation hosts its Students Day to commemorate International Nurses Day and mark the pioneering nurse’s birthday. It’s a chance for nursing students from across the country to gain career insight, put their questions to industry experts and understand more about Florence Nightingale herself.

Invitations must be earned through nominations or winning a competition. Abbi Bott, 22, was the only student nurse from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) to win an invite to this year’s event. This is her account of the inspiring day and why nursing is so important.

Abbi Bott

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor but I couldn’t get on board with A-level chemistry, then a vet after that. But I’m a big kid at heart, so children’s nursing sounded more appealing. Caring for children, looking after and reassuring families, and building that trust with the parents – the more I researched it, the more I wanted it.

I started blogging my journey into nursing after my A-levels. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the grades I wanted but I didn’t let it deter me so I went to college and passed a healthcare access course while volunteering as an healthcare assistant in a children’s A&E. My blog just kept growing and growing, so I shared my views on what makes a student nurse and that’s how I was chosen to go down to London for the Florence Nightingale Foundation’s Student Day.

It was a bit surreal to be chosen for the Student Day. Little ol’ me was going to this important event in the nursing calendar where CEOs and nursing leaders would be sharing their journeys into their jobs. It was really quite eye-opening hearing how people started off in the military and transferred to private healthcare before going into the NHS. There are so many routes available.

It made me reflect on my own journey and I realised that not everyone finds their love for nursing while they’re at school. I’ve documented it on my Instagram if you’d be interested in taking a look. Some train to be nurses after their own experiences in hospital, while others discover it by chance. I’ve always been inspired by hearing people’s journeys and listening to those who made it to the top of their professions only reaffirmed that I was on the right career path.

The student day started with an early networking breakfast at King’s College London, where I got chatting with other nurses who were on the day with us. As the only student from DMU, I was adopted by a group of nurses from the University of Derby. Greta Westwood, the CEO of the foundation, gave us all a really inspiring talk about her journey through her nursing career before we were able to put our questions to nursing leaders from a variety of different disciplines.

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There was such a good atmosphere with questions buzzing around the place. After lunch, we got split into three different groups and rotated around the itinerary. The Florence Nightingale Museum hadn’t opened back up to the public when we went, so we were among the first people to see the exhibition celebrating Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. I got to hold a replica of the lamp she would have used in the Crimean War – which isn’t actually like an Aladdin lamp as I previously thought.

The crux of the day came after a quick afternoon tea break, where we went to Westminster Abbey to watch the Florence Nightingale commemoration service.  Having not rained the entire day, we of course got caught in a torrential downpour on our way to the service – very typically British. We arrived, soaking wet, gave in our tickets and got some sneaky pictures before the service started.

It’s the first time I’ve been inside Westminster Abbey. It’s surreal, you look up and the ceilings seem to go on forever. There were a few special guests including the health secretary, Sajid Javid, and Princess Alexandra (cousin to Queen Elizabeth II), who is the patron of the Florence Nightingale Trust.

Nursing has been so impacted by Covid-19  and this was the first time they have done an in-person service since the outbreak. Every year, the roll of honour is carried through Westminster Abbey and those in attendance pay their respects to the nurses who died in World War II, however this year, a second roll of honour was presented to commemorate the nursing and healthcare staff that lost their lives during the pandemic. The service was very emotional. A lot of the families that lost their loved ones during coronavirus were in attendance and were able to reflect on their sacrifices. People think a nurse is just a nurse but they are human and vulnerable too, even during peacetime.

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Watching that service was so moving and inspiring. It reinforced to me why I wanted to be a nurse and I’d absolutely love to go again in future years.

Not long after the service, I found out I would be graduating from DMU with a job. I’m so happy to say that I will be working as a neonatal nurse in intensive care units. It’s a dream graduate role and I can’t wait to get started.

I’d like to finish by saying that many students find it hard to believe we can be leaders, with the impression leaders are those with status or large volumes of followers.

However, every single one of us can actually be a nurse leader. To be a good leader, you simply have to inspire others to be their best self. Being a good role model ties into being a good leader and many people are capable of this without even realising they have this title.

Abbi x

Posted on Wednesday 15th June 2022

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