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Florence Nightingale letter found during office tidy-up

A letter by Florence Nightingale expressing her vision for community nursing has been found during a clear-out at a London hospital.

A letter by Florence Nightingale expressing her vision for community nursing has been found during a clear-out at a London hospital.


Eamonn Sullivan, right, with Royal Marsden arts officer Ben Hartley and the Nightingale letter
Picture: Dominick Tyler

The framed lithograph copy of a letter written in 1900, was discovered in a dusty frame in a disused office once occupied by chief nurses at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea.

Inspirational

Miss Nightingale wrote a letter each year in May – around the time of her birthday – to young women finishing their training at the nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. Every probationer would have received a copy of the letter.

Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust chief nurse Eamonn Sullivan said: ‘The letter was found by my personal assistant Beth Bartlett during an office clear-out. People didn’t know what it was, until we spotted Florence’s signature on the back of the frame.’

Need for 'home nursing'

In the letter Miss Nightingale writes: ‘Nursing is become a profession.

'Trained nurses no longer an option but a fact. But, oh, if home nursing could become an every day fact here in this big city of London, the biggest in the world, in an island the smallest inhabited island in the world.’

Still relevant today

Mr Sullivan said the letter showed Miss Nightingale’s vision, identifying the need for community nursing more than 100 years ago.

‘That was her vision. She had developed professional nurses in hospitals and could see the need for nurses in people’s homes, even then, at the turn of the 20th century.

‘It shows how important and relevant she is today. I’m a huge fan.’

The Florence Nightingale Museum has confirmed the lithograph dates from 1900.

Museum pieces

Collections officer Holly Carter-Chappell told Nursing Standard: ‘Each student was given a lithograph copy, so I would say there were probably about 30 of each letter.

‘We have a complete set of the lithograph letters from each year here at the museum.’

The letter now has pride of place on the wall of Mr Sullivan's office.

'It's important to preserve a significant piece of history,' he added. 


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