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Minister Ashford's Statement on COVID-19 - 12 May 2020

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Good afternoon everyone: today’s briefing takes place on International nurses day and so today our focus is all about nursing.  

May 12th 2020 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale – someone who earned her fame as a front-line nurse in the Crimean war and is revered as the founder of modern nursing.  

She helped professionalise the role of nurses and set the early standards that we recognise today. She also established the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing which still exists to this day. 

I’m delighted to welcome back our Director of Nursing Cath Quilliam who will talk about Florence Nightingalelegacy and its relevance today.  

The Lady with the Lamp is how generations of school children have learned about Florence Nightingale – but that – as Cath will tell us – is only part of the story.   

But first, the latest daily Covid-19 statistics: 

  • The total number of tests undertaken stands at 3853 
  • The total number of concluded tests stands at 3818 
  • The number of outstanding test results is 35 
  • The total number of confirmed cases stands at 331  
  • That means there has been 1 new case since yesterday’s update 
  • There are now 36 active cases.   

The history book portrayal of Florence Nightingale moving among injured men in a field hospital got me thinking about the stereotypical images of nurses.  

Traditionally, we see them as devoted professionals with a great capacity to care for others, kind and patient.  

Those qualities are important whatever the circumstances, but its worth reflecting on how the public perception of nurses has changed over the course of the last two months.  

Battle imagery is often used in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.  

So, nurses are front-line troops in the battle with a deadly virus..  

In their personal protective equipment, is they’re line of defence – their determination to defeat the enemy their main weapon. 

Two of the most memorable images from the coverage of Covid-19 have been of nurses facing up tchallenge. 

One is a widely published photograph of a nurse who’d just removed her visor, mask and goggles after a long shift in ITU – her face is marked by indentations from the PPE – her skin is hot, sore and red. Her eyes tell of the pressure of nursing seriously sick patients. She is heading home but already preparing for more of the same the next day. 

The second image which caught my eye is a cartoon- type graphic, in which the virus, portrayed as a towering red sphere covered in those familiar protruding clumps, is shown mouth-wide-open, roaring at a nurse - who is calmly looking up to it, taking it on.   

Such images will stay in people’s mind forever. 

That’s because without words, they tell the story of how healthcare workers, so often taken for granted, are now recognised for taking on an extraordinary challenge. 

The work that they are undertaking is relentless, hard going and not without risk. 

But most of all, these images convey the qualities of outstanding courage, perseverance, determination and professionalism.  

They have increased our awareness of the expertise nurses bring to the job, the practical skills and mental strength required day in, day out, and how they have risen as individuals and as a profession to an unprecedented challenge.  

Nurses are getting on with the job and we admire, respect and thank them for that. 

Part of getting on with the job has been dealing with change. 

Nurses across all spheres have been asked to adapt swiftly to global pandemic, the like of which many never expected to see 

As we’ve reorganised our health services, many nurses have switched roles or been asked to work in different areas with new groups of patients. 

They have changed their working patterns, become part of new teams, found new ways of doing things and in some cases, taken on new responsibilities - in less than ideal circumstances.    

They have played a key role in achieving our overall goal as an Island community: preventing the health service from being overwhelmed. 

Adapting to change will be key in the next stage, when we begin to ‘turn back on’ those services we had to stop while we dealt with Covid-19. Naturally, there will be a wave of demand, as appointments and treatments resume for our patient patients. 

Once again, nurses will be on the front line helping to meet this demand, and once again, there will be hurdles to clear and complex issues to face. 

The ‘new normal’ is often talked about in the context of things not returning to the way they were, once the pandemic is behind us. 

That is certainly true for our health services and our nursing corps will be in the vanguard of a new era.    

I will now hand over to Cath Quilliam our Director of Nursing for her thoughts and reflections on today: Cath. 

Florence Nightingale was a prolific writer of papers and studies and good to quote from.  

Although scientifically driven, she saw nursing as an art, saying ‘.. and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter's or sculptor's work …’ 

That I think, captures what nursing today requires: careful study, technical skill, meticulous attention to detail, devoted practice, consideration for others – and an absolute dedication to the job. 

Thank you to all our nursing colleagues in the Island, I hope you have enjoyed reflecting on your profession and continue to feel the supported by the Manx public.  

Happy International Nurses Day!  

Now on to today’s shout-outs:  

Firstly, Tania Linden a manager in acute mental health has been nominated by her team. She has worked with relentless positivity since the pandemic began and has been ensuring people who are mentally ill continue to receive the best care.  Alongside this she is also caring for the welfare of staff and boosting morale. Her fairness, integrity and enthusiasm has been remarkable.  So thank you Tania for all you have been doing and continue to do. 

Secondly, the residents of Farrants Park, Castletown. They held a VE Day social distancing street party and have raised £300 for the Isle of Man NHS.  So thank you to all the residents. 

Finally, I have also been asked by several people to give a shout out to the Patient Transfer and Air Ambulance teams for all that they have been doing at these difficult times.  Several people have been in touch with me to praise the work they have been undertaking to facilitate people still being able to travel in order to get the care that they require. 

That’s it for today but in closing, remember stay at home where you can and stay safe. 

Thank you.