International Nurses Day is traditionally celebrated on May 12 to mark Florence Nightingale’s birthday, and to acknowledge the amazing contribution nurses make to the community.

This year is special as it will mark the 200th anniversary since Nightingale’s birth. In addition, The World Health Organisation (WHO) designated 2020 as The Year of the Nurse and Midwife with the theme, Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Nursing the World to Health.

Recognising the role of nurses in our communities is particularly poignant this year with medical workers at the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. There will likely be no time for celebrations.

At The Royal Children’s Hospital, we’re proud of our talented, compassionate and dedicated nurses who go above and beyond to deliver great care to our patients and families.

To recognise their wonderful work, at a time which should be filled with celebration, we offer a small gesture of thanks with an online exhibition titled, Our Nurses: 150 Years Strong.  

This selection of photographs date back to the late 1800s and are the first visual record of life inside the hospital. We witness nurses, medical staff and patients in Sir Redmond Barry’s Carlton mansion where the Melbourne Hospital for Sick Children was located.

These photographs also show us the first nurses which trained at the hospital. The training program was formalised and advocated by Martron Sarah Bishop who is pictured below. Bishop advocated for improved living conditions for both staff and patients, and was instrumental in the formalisation of nurse training. The nurses’ uniforms seen in these images are also a product of Bishop’s influence and efforts to distinguish nursing as a profession.

The nursing profession looks rather different nearly a 150 years later, but the care, compassion and dedication to treating Victorian children has not changed.