Florence Nightingale

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Celebrating the essential work of nurses has perhaps never felt more pertinent: with the Covid-19 pandemic transforming the world as we know it, it is nurses on the front line who are saving lives. International Nurses Day 2020 marks the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth, and much as Nightingale wrote pioneering books, so nurses today have given a crucial insight into the profession with more modern titles.

Last year, Christie Watson reflected on 20 years of nursing in The Language of Kindness, which followed the extremities of life and death as seen from a bedside. The book was named one of The Times' Books of the Year, and reached The Sunday Times bestseller list. But even those accolades are dwarfed by the power of the testimony Watson includes in her story, such as when she helps a boy whose life was saved by heart transplant write a letter to the family of his donor. Watson left medicine behind to pursue a writing career - until recently, when she was called back to the frontline by the pandemic and has joined the emergency nursing register.

Later in 2019, midwife Leah Hazard offered her perspective in Hard Pushed. Another Sunday Times bestseller, Hazard's memoir dispelled misconceptions that midwifery is all joyful baby-delivery, and instead exposed the harsh reality of long shifts, sleepless nights and the number of midwives relying on anti-depressants. As Hazard eloquently writes: 'Death is the twin of life and the midwife delivers them both.'

This year, before the extent of lockdown was truly known or understood, saw the paperback publication of How to Treat People, Molly Case's exploration of rawest humanity as witnessed through her years in nursing. For Case, life's roughest edges have long been a muse: she first caught the public eye in 2013 with her poem Nursing the Nation. 

Footnote

Case has written a new poem to mark International Nurses Day, showing how now - more than ever - the world can be united in the humanity we are capable of offering one another. 

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