Celebration of RCN centenary recorded by nurse poet

Molly Case reflects on 100 years of the royal college

Star of RCN's 2013 congress, spoken word artist Molly Case has paid tribute to the royal college's centenary with a new poem titled 100 Years.

Molly was a student in 2013 when she wowed congress attendees with her poem Nursing the Nation, which went on to collect more than 300,000 views on YouTube.

Now a cardiac nurse, Molly could not be at the opening ceremony this year in Glasgow on Saturday evening, but a special film of 100 Years was shown to gathered members.

Filled with special effects, the film shows Molly performing her new work which draws on her own experience and also reflects on the origins of the RCN and milestones in the history of the college.

Molly said: 'Being commissioned to write a poem for the RCN's centenary was such an exciting opportunity. Of course, it was also daunting to research an incredible 100-year history and try to put it into a short video. My aim was to take the listener on a journey with me ... I hope everybody finds something for them within the poem and feels, like me, grateful for the years of support the College has and continues to give us.'

RCN chief executive and general secretary Janet Davies said: 'Molly’s poem captures the true spirit of nursing and the profession’s rich and varied history.'

The film of 100 Years is on the RCN website and a transcript can be found below.


100 Years

by Molly Case


I wake up.

it’s new year; the roads are clear

Z lined streets warm with beer

from the night before

long the hospital appears.


First case: open heart surgery.

My job? To watch and observe,

haven’t seen one before

the nurse in charge gives me a tour

of the room.


Soon the patient is with us

and everyone is quiet

as snowfall.

A blue drape separates

anesthetist from surgeon’s cut,

I am able to peer over the top.

All of a sudden I feel dizzy, the shock

of feeling my own heart about to stop.


For there,

below the drape,

a landscape,

not a patient, begins to take shape.

“Brussels, 1914, ” the nurse in charge whispers in my ear,

 “Look,” she says waving her hand below at the scene

cavalry, infantry, as if this might be a dream

all of them resting against their packs in the street.

Where once a patient used to be

she now nods her head

towards soldiers resting their feet.

And beside the road are rows of nurses

waiting to pass

hundreds of them –

volunteers, trained, awaiting the chance

to serve on the frontline.


In the operating room the patient is prepared:

the ECG is given to me:

and on it, not heart rhythms and squiggly lines

but a letter handwritten and signed,

by Matron Sarah Swift,

stating the need for trained quality nurses

after the experiences of wartime.


I peer over again and see the sternum is now cut through

the pericardium glistening like dew

drops on the grass at Cavendish square.

And wait, I think to myself, I know I’ve been there

but not at this time,

as I stare into the cavity

and what is presented to me,

is not a heart pumping with blood

but a room full of books.

1945 – heads down, nurses studying

buddying up in the Royal College’s new

Library of Nursing.


The monitor bleeps

a healthcare assistant wraps the patient’s feet in gauze,

they look worn and hard-soled.

1981: November was cold and wet with little sunshine,

400,000 NHS workers were living

with salaries below the poverty line.

But a siege of voices

and thousands of marching feet on the ground

found the government increasing pay by 12%.


I take a seat.

The operation is complete

and I can feel my upturned palms

are buzzing with some strange heat.

I look down and see an electrical grid

pulsating across the lines in my skin,

the nurse catches my eye,

gives me a grin.

It’s as if everything we’ve learnt today

is now held within

my hands

sitting here with this

 hot white ball of energy

cleverly twisting and changing shape,

capable of moving forward at great speed

but never slipping through my fingers

it lingers here with me…

Even when the light begins to disappear

I feel the warmth of thousands of members, 100 years…


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