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Nurses' Day: 12 May

To recognize and affirm the work of nurses, with reference to the life of Florence Nightingale.

by The Revd Alan M. Barker

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To recognize and affirm the work of nurses, with reference to the life of Florence Nightingale.

Preparation and materials

  • Images of Florence Nightingale and contemporary nursing work – available on the internet (subject to copyright).
  • If there are classes that have recently studied Florence Nightingale as part of the National Curriculum, this might be the opportunity for them to present their work.
  • A local community or school nurse might be invited to share in the assembly.
  • Useful websites:
    National Nurses Day:
    The Florence Nightingale Museum


  1. Begin by saying that 12 May is recognized as Nurses’ Day. A famous pioneer of nursing, Florence Nightingale, was born on 12 May 1820.
  2. Review the story of Florence Nightingale.

    Born into a wealthy family, Florence felt called by God to help others. She wanted to work as a nurse, but her parents did not wish her to do this. Florence was quite determined and didn’t give up her ambition. Eventually, in 1851, her father allowed her to train as a nurse in Germany.

    Shortly afterwards, the Crimean War broke out and Florence made the long journey with 38 other women nurses to help care for wounded soldiers.

    The conditions they found at the hospital in Scutari (now in Turkey) were terrible. The rooms were overcrowded and filthy. Many of the wounded men were not properly washed or fed. Florence Nightingale saw that more were dying of disease caused by the dirty conditions than from their injuries.

    Together with her nurses, she made sure that the men were better cared for. A kitchen was set up to provide good food, and the hospital was cleaned to make it safer and more hygienic (explain term).

    Such was Florence Nightingale’s care and dedication that she would often go round the hospital at night to check that all was well. Because of this, the injured soldiers called her ‘the Lady of the Lamp’. The care and commitment of Florence Nightingale brought them much comfort and encouragement.

    As people in Britain heard of her work, Florence Nightingale became a popular heroine. She shared her skills and campaigned for better care for people who were ill. Through her example, the books she wrote, and a training school for nurses that she founded, people came to see nursing as important and skilled work.
  3. Reflect that modern healthcare has developed in ways that Florence Nightingale could never have imagined. But nursing is still an important expression of care and humanity.
  4. Invite a nurse to talk about their work. Alternatively, discuss with members of the school community where nurses work and what they do. Invite members of the school community to share their experiences. Some may have parents or relatives who are nurses. Others may have received treatment in hospital or at a local clinic.
  5. The following points might be made:

    – Today nursing is a career for both women and men.
    – Nurses care for people at all stages of their lives – from before birth, into childhood and until the end of life.
    – Nurses work in many different places – not only at hospitals, but also in local surgeries, communities and schools.
    – Nurses promote healthy living as well as helping to look after people who are unwell.
    – Nurses are highly skilled and many undertake specialized roles.
    – Good hygiene, health advice and understanding support are just as important today as they were during the lifetime of Florence Nightingale.

  6. Introducing the song ‘Jesus’ hands were kind hands’ (see below), observe that the care Jesus showed for people who were unwell inspired Florence Nightingale.

Time for reflection

As we remember the work of Florence Nightingale, the Lady of the Lamp,
we pray for those who work as nurses today, both in this area and across the world.
May the light of their caring skills reassure everyone who needs healing, help and comfort.
In the name of Christ,


‘Jesus’ hands were kind hands’ (Junior Praise, 134; tune: ‘Au claire de la lune’)
Alternatively, ‘What goes in, must come out’ (Songs for Everybody, published by Out of the Ark Music) provides a musical focus upon good health.

Publication date: May 2011   (Vol.13 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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