Monday, 11 May 2020

In Praise of Nurses - Benches for World Nurses Day

It's International Nurses Day on May 12th

The Good Samaritan 1914, Gabriel Emile Edourd Nicolet

Yes, it's the anniversary of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, she of The Lamp.

Nurses are much in the news these days. It's time to celebrate the unique skills of nurses and, of course, nurse benches.

As it happens, we're a bit short of nurses here in the UK. They're recruiting like mad. Still, it's going to be a push to get new five thousand nurses by next month. 

It's an exhausting job.

Rest After Duty 1956, Lev Kotlyarov

There's all that training to go through.  

Nursing isn't just about love and bandages you know.

If you want to be a nurse you have to understand anatomy and physiology, of course.

You have to do chemistry.

You have to prepare and deliver medicines, wearing a uniform that looks like a frightful waitress or a badly dressed French maid. 

You have to stay awake through long boring night shifts.

You have to know how to bake medically-themed cakes that you can bring in to share at breaktime. 

You will learn how to make beds so that corners are tucked in and the sheet is taut enough to bounce a coin.

Once you have made the bed you have to have a good bedside manner. And good spelling and punctuation in case you need to write letters or register complaints.

And you can't escape numbers; you will need to monitor patient progress by reading complicated graphs and tables. 

Above all, you need to be kind and patient in all circumstances. You have to deal with sick people, colleagues, and patients' friends and relatives. 

You can't afford to get ratty.

You must be professional and smartly dressed at all times.

You will offer helpful information and advice. For example, you may need to motivate someone to lose weight. 

And you mustn't panic when your patient goes a funny colour.

You have to think on your feet and remember huge amounts of information. Nursing mnemonics can help. For learning bones of the wrist try:

Some    Lovers     Try    Positions     That     They     Can't     Handle

That's Scaphoid    Lunare    Triquetrum  Pisiform  Trapezium Trapezoid  Capitate Hamate to you and me. 

Quick! What are the muscles of the rotator cuff?

Tarts in silk stockings 

Yes. But what are the muscles? 

Sometimes you just have to pray that you get it right. 

As a nurse you are not just a nightingale in a fancy hat.

Whatever happens, you have to honour the Nightingale Pledge and do what you can to stop people dying. 

Here on Paradise Island we have St. Smiley's Hospital, a tiny cottage hospital where Innocent did her training. Innocent was very demure in those days.

She sat quietly by the bedside and looked at herself in the mirror.

She did a stint in Accident and Emergency. She was there the night Lord Brassica's horse Tonks came in with bad gas.

She was there when Cora Boran assaulted the Imodium bench.

And she was there when Root Brassica was admitted for stupidity.

So grateful was Lord Brassica for her nursing care that he handed over a sizeable cheque to save St. Smiley's from the same fate as other UK cottage hospitals. 

So that's how Innocent came to marry Root and become the sixth Lady Brassica of Drizzly. Nowadays, unlike many ex nurses, she lives a life of luxury in Drizzly Manor. Does she miss nursing? Not really. 

The long night shifts got her down, even when she self-medicated to get through it.

Nursing requires skill and patience and emotional labour. It can be very stressful. In your training you need to learn how to save lives without taking your own.

You must always give 100% (though not when you're a blood donor yourself.) 

Of course there are perks. You get to work with dishy doctors.

Nice lab coat. 

Here is our own Dr. Skill here on Paradise Island. Who wouldn't want to ponder a medical question with him? 

Dr. Skill from The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan 1678

In matters of the heart it's wise to know your cardiology. As every nurse can tell you, the quickest way to a man's heart is through the sternum.

It can be very satisfying working with congenial colleagues. 

Most of them are decent people - ultrasound.  

And of course, nursing requires professional skill and judgement.  

As a nurse you are in a position of power. 

Nursing takes a very special person.  For example, you might want to work with children. Here is a very nice little school nurse

These children know her as The Nit Nurse.

Once you get experience, you might want to be a nurse manager who uses your own practice to think up intelligent research questions.

Or you might want to work in public health.

Yes, in a vaccination programme, nurses call the shots.

Wherever you work these days, medical places are very busy. There could be a lot of people in the waiting room.

You will have to be firm at times, even when people have mental health issues. For example, if the man who thinks he's invisible turns up, you must tell him you can't see him today.

Sometimes in medicine you have to be cruel to be kind.

It's all very exhausting. 

You may spend your lunch break trying to catch up on paperwork. 

If you're lucky, you might just have time to pop down to the hospital cafeteria for the special of the day. 

In reality, medical people rarely get a break. The last time nurses took a break was 1956.

Or maybe even earlier than that.

Nurses these days are rushed off their feet as patients become more and more demanding. Hoards of them clamour around the ward shouting for attention.

Gone are the days when a nurse had time to offer cigarettes and sympathy.

While she's lighting his cigarette, queues of people are forming outside. 

Some of them will be women and children.  

If you're a paediatric nurse, you can't afford to play around. And if you're an obstetric nurse, you must always deliver.

Like buses, babies have a habit of all arriving at the same time. These eleven babies were born on the same New Years Day. As obstetrics nurses are fond of saying, meconium happens. 

You will need to bend over backwards to find out what is best for your patient.

Some patients will need urgent attention.

As a triage nurse you must make quick decisions. You can't afford to throw up your hands.

And speaking of throwing up, you'll have to tolerate other people's vomit.

You'll need to be ready to glove up at any time.

By the way, National Student Nurses Day May is a good time to celebrate the achievements of students who come into the profession from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Here is Mary Mahoney, the first black woman to complete nurse's training in the United States.

In recent years men have come into nursing in increasing numbers. 

In the US and the UK they're more than ten percent of the nursing workforce, including hipsters with little beards. 

Older people are also being recruited back into nursing.

After a spell of veterinary work on The Ark, Old Noah is over two thousand years old. And yes, he is still smoking but some things have to be overlooked in order to recruit enough nurses.

Volunteer carers can be very helpful in supporting hospitals too. 

Innocent: Voluntary work? I wouldn't do it if you paid me.  

But of course, not everyone is suited to nursing. 

Some people can't remember the mnemonics. Not even the easy ones like

Tarts In Silk Stockings

Some lack the necessary sensitivities.

Some think it's all about the uniform.

I think this happened with Innocent. Here is the nurses uniform she designed and wore to work in the week before her training ended.

Revealing, yes. Some of the consultants thought it inappropriate for ICU. 

There are other reasons why people might not be suited to nursing. The words scab and pus come to mind.

I'll spare you the gory details: nursing involves bodily functions. Florence Nightingale knew that. But quite a few people are just too soft and cuddly to bear it.

On the other hand, some people are just too fond of blood.

I'm aware that this blog is called Benchsite and there haven't been many benches in this story. If you're a surgical nurse you'll know there is such a thing as bench surgery. 

It apparently involves a lot of scissors.

The truth is, nurse benches are few and far between. The best I can do is to show you some of the benches which celebrate the work of great nurses.

Remember Florence Nightingale? In 1837, when she was 17, she sat on this bench in Hampshire and realised she wanted to be a nurse.  

She became well known for her work in the Crimean War and for her management skills, which turned nursing into an organised profession.

This is Edith Cavell, the heroic nurse who saved the lives of WW1 soldiers in German-occupied Belgium.

She was arrested and executed for helping 200 allied soldiers escape.

Here's her memorial bench at St Edmunds Chapel in Hunstanton, UK.

This is the memorial bench of Jane Delano, founder of the Red Cross Nursing Service.

This bench was commissioned by the Wenches in Trenches, a group dedicated to the memory of nurses and VADs of WW1. 

And here are some benches to commemorate ordinary nurses who do an extraordinary job every day:

Mollie Spalding, a practice nurse in Torbay

Doris Wilcox, an RN at Garden City Hospital in Michigan

Ron Evans, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Wales

Judy Soverel, an RN, OCN who clearly loved nursing for all the right reasons.

She would have known that Tarts in Silk Stockings stands for Teres minor, Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus and Subscapular. 

So this blog is in appreciation of all nurses. They are having a rough time of it right now. The least we can do is say thank you. 

Many thanks!


International Nurses Day, on May 12th each year, has been celebrated since 1965. Its purpose is to mark the contribution nurses all over the world make to society. In the US and Canada it is also National Nursing Week. The UK's Royal College of Nursing invites you to say thank you to nurses on social media using #thankanurse

This isn't the first time Benchsite has done medical benches. For some Feelgood Medical Benches, including doctors and nurses, see the World Health Day story at

The Good Samaritan is by Swiss artist Gabriel Émile Édouard Nicolet (1856-1921)  It is a portrait of a WW1 Red Cross nurse, seen at

Rest After Duty (1956) is a painting by Russian artist Lev Kotlyarov, who dedicated it to doctors. 

Nursing shortages and high turnover are a problem in many countries because, frankly, nursing is an exhausting job. But how to keep nurses happy and refreshed in their work so that they don't burn out?  A 2018 study in Portland, Oregon suggests that a 30-minute break in a garden can do a great deal more to relieve stress and restore nurses’ equilibrium than the same time spent indoors in a break room. The study is published in The American Journal of Critical Care:  Cordoza, M et al (2018) Impact of Nurses Taking Daily Work Breaks in a Hospital Garden on Burnout, Nov 27(6), pp 508-512.  

The Florence Nightingale and Edith Cavell dolls are from Debbie Ritter at Uneek Doll Designs. Debbie makes dolls for all sorts of people and quite a few of them feature on Benchsite. Florence and Edith are available from  Debbie's blog about her work as an artist is at

Florence Nightingale's childhood home was Embley Park near Romsey in Hampshire. Her call to nursing came in 1837 when she was 17 years old; she was sitting on a bench under a tree at the time. She became well known for her work in the Crimean War and for her management skills, which turned nursing into an organised profession. Though she was a recognised statistician, she is best known as the founder of modern nursing and her image from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem Santa Filomena (The Lady with the Lamp.) She died in 1910 and is buried in East Wellow in Hampshire. The bench photo is from the American Association for the History of Nursing at  

Pasukaru is a regular here on Benchsite. His Nurse in Training is photo number 323/365 in 2011. He says the crash test dummy probably doesn't approve. On Day 291/365 in 2010 his clones experienced a slight stinging sensation when receiving their injections. 

The Five thousand by June poster is by C. Rakeman. It was contributed by the 
American Association of the Red Cross and dates from 1918. It is on the Flickr National Library of Medicine photostream at  What else happens in June? Have a look at the Benchsite calendar

Schoolgirl into Nurse medical training in Britain 1942 is a photograph from the Ministry of Information's World War collection at the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non commerical Licence. The image (Imperial War Museum number D8602) is considered Crown Copyright, now expired as the photograph was taken prior to 1 June 1957.,_1942_D8602.jpg  If you're interested in education and training benches, you'd better have a look before school's out for summer

Borracho is a drunk skeleton on a bench, seen by Travis at the Museum of Natural History in Santa Barbara, California. Travis is an archaeologist, originally from Long Beach, but he's moved around a lot. He's in the process of attempting to integrate hobbies into a practical future job: scuba diving and photography with archaeology - good luck with that.

In 2003, two students, Nazila Alimohammadi and Anna Clark, built a picnic table in the shape of the periodic table of elements. It was created as a sculpture for a public art course and is accurate in every detail, right down to the auxiliary lanthanides and actinides tables that constitute the table's bench. The table is located, er, right by the Chemistry building at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. It was photographed in 2007 by Larry, who lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. From December 30, 2015 there are four new elements added to the seventh row of the periodic table. They are temporarily named as ununtrium, (Uut or element 113), ununpentium (Uup, element 115), ununseptium (Uus, element 117), and ununoctium (Uuo, element 118). Just so you know. 

The nurse delivering medicines is wearing a nurse uniform from the 1900's. The photo is from photographer Valerie Everett, who currently lives in Shelbyville, USA 

The marvelous medical cupcakes are by Mindy Bortz back in 2012.  Mindy is a baker and graphic designer from Cheyenne, Wyoming. She must know that cake (and cookies and doughnuts) are very much part of working life. In fact, cake is part of all aspects of life, even benches

Back in the day Matron used to make sure that nurses made the beds properly. This meant tucked-in corners, straight lines, and taut sheets. The bedmaking image is from page 176 of Obstetrics for Nurses (1922). The author is Everett Dudley Plass (1886) and the book was published by D. Appleton and contributed to Internet Archive Book Images by the University of California Libraries.

The two cartoons are from the January 19, 1916 volume 150 edition of Punch, made available by Their statement reads: This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at The terms of the license are that I publish the statement. Which I have done.  

Chris Millett has been photographed in his Flickr photostream wearing a very wide variety of costumes and uniforms. His nurses uniform is particularly clean and smart. He is wearing black tights and black shoes, which are worn in the UK. In the past, American nurses were only allowed to wear white tights and white shoes with their (white) uniform. Now it seems that any colour will do. Remember the apricot coloured uniforms in ER?

The nurse and the dummy patient in bed are from the Hagerstown Community College Public Information collection in 2011. They have some good photos of nursing practice on this site.

Birdsinhats is your one-stop shop for Birds in Hats paper goods. All birds in hats, like the Nightingale Nurse A3 print, are illustrated by Alice Tams in her studio in London with the humble crayon. Alice is also at

Dying right here is strictly prohibited.  Try the fried pork bacteria sauce. I'm a great fan of Sign Fail, an etsy shop at . These are funny sign replicas inspired by real-life hilarity, the best of Chinglish & Engrish on handmade funny signs, cards & magnets. The signs are handmade to order in Melbourne, Australia by Michael Bancroft and there are many which are just right for Benchsite.

Innocent is the daughter-in-law of Lord and Lady Brassica, married to their hapless son Root, who is known for getting drunk and sleeping on benches. Since her wedding in 2013, Innocent has emerged from her convent nursing dress into something of a fashion icon, usurping her more famous mother-in-law and causing uproar on the fashion forums. Her nurses uniform design caused much controversy at St Smiley's. 

Root is the son of Lord and Lady Brassica of Drizzly. Whilst Lady B is gorgeous and Lord B is wealthy and personable, Root has none of these qualities. In fact, he has no qualities whatsoever, as became apparent in my Bus Stop benches story. For a full account of Root's Stupidity condition, including his medical notes, see   Yeah, I know it's not ethical to publish someone's medical chart but honestly, he doesn't mind.

The Dog Doctor illustration is a print from unNaturalinspiration at  They have amazing stuff to do with animals. For some barkingly brilliant dog benches see  If you prefer cats, there's a Cat Doctor too. And a Benchsite blog about cat benches, edited by the ever difficult beautiful Meredith

Dr. Skill is from John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress (1678). He's well known in Fribble, where there's someone who fancies him. It's Ursula, our Unicorn in Residence. Did he send her that hearty Valentine download? Dr. Skill correctly diagnosed Lady Brassica's Shopilius Extremis a couple of years ago. There's a lot of it about. And remember that Shopping is Not Just for Christmas

Roses of No Man's Land, aka Wenches in Trenches, are a group of like-minded women who do a sponsored walk once a year, usually in September somewhere on the Western Front. They aim to have as much fun as they can while raising awareness and funds for military causes. In 2015 a memorial bench was placed at Lochnagar Crater on The Somme in France, where the group proudly laid a wreath on behalf of all the Nurses and VADs of WW1. The event was attended by people from all over the world. The bench itself is a hand-crafted nine seater with each seat back centred with a red cross and a memorial in both English and French across the top. For more about their work and the lovely ceremony see 

David O'Doherty's joke about decent people being ultrasound is one of the Best of the Edinburgh Fringe jokes in 2004. 

Speaking of memorial benches, we have lots of those here on Benchsite. And peace benches too. Just imagine it's World Peace Day

The very smart looking Canadian nurse is from an advertisement for Noxzema skin cream. The image is from the The Canadian Nurse, published by the Canadian Nurses' Association and contributed by the University of Ottawa.  

Kricket lives in Arlington, Virginia and has lots of lovely animals in her photostream. She took a photograph of an enema poster. That's all I know.  

Does anyone remember The Nit Nurse? The Old School Nurse is just two inches tall. Barbara Hart from Buffalo, New York makes all sorts of unique and whimsical handmade wood dolls called Little Wood People.  Though the Little Wood People are currently on a break, Barbara's shop is at    

The children sitting on a bench are Ronald Ford (aged 7) and a friend, who await their turn with the nurse. They are about to be immunised against diphtheria at Argyle Street School Clinic in London on 7 May 1941.,_London,_England,_1941_D3182.jpg?uselang=en-gb

The strict-looking nurse who wants a cure for stupid, the nurse who's only in it for the drugs, and the little prick nurse are all from Fringepop, an etsy shop in Atlanta, Georgia. . It's full of 8x10 art prints including hipster, pin ups, zombies, steampunk, mermaids, witches, Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, cabinet cards, owls, taxidermy, flappers, octopus, fine art, lowbrow art, and surreal art. Fringepop also has a large selection of roller derby, horror goth, retro kitsch, and circus sideshow. They also love art deco, flapper, and art nouveau pinups and gorgeous deco mermaid art. They specialize in Victorian, medical, sideshow, and other oddity art along with many whimsical animals including squirrels, owls, deer, and ravens. As if this weren't enough, Fringepop loves macabre gothic themes such as skulls and anatomical art. Favorites also include funny designs with retro sayings and a kitsch quality. 

Lana Searfross is a former nurse from Fort Wayne, Indiana. She loves making Instant Printables for her etsy shop Lanasprintables at  The shop 
features, among other things, quotes for every occasion, monograms, wedding printables, nursery and watercolor wall art and, yes, the print about nurses calling the shots. 

People waiting on a bench to see the nurse is an image from page 135 of The Canadian Nurse (1905). Authors are Canadian Nurses' Association and the contributing library is the University of Ottawa.

A photo from August 23, 1956 shows nurses relaxing in a lounge by reading and drinking coffee. They are Nurse Corps at USNS Sangley Point Hospital, Philippine Islands and I reckon this might be the last time any nurse relaxed in the lounge. The photo is from the Flickr photostream of the US Navy's Bureau of Surgery and Medicine 2012 Navy Medicine Historical Files Collection - Facilities - Sangley Point

The two nurses on a bench are lay sisters from World War I. Soeurs laïqueswere painted by Charles Henry Tenré (1864–1926) in about 1915, portraying an image of nurses as comforting beauty on the battlefield. The painting is exhibited at the US National Library of Medicine

Lighting His Cigarette is a collectible print from Beth, who does fun vintage advertisements and magazine cover art. Her shop is full of retro reveries 
The 1943 US Navy nurse lighting a cigarette for her patient is by artist Jon Whitcomb and it featured as the cover of the Saturday Evening Post magazine on October 23, 1943. 

In 2014 benches were donated to the AMISOM KDF Medical Center by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Kismayo, Somalia, for use by patients coming to the free clinic at Kismayo's International Airport. The two photos are by AMISOM Photo  (men)

Nieuwjaarskinderen are the 11 babies born in New Year's Day in January 1933 in a hospital in Berlin. The photo is from the wonderful Netherlands National Archive Spaarnestad at

The Receiving Room is art from 1917 in the first world war. It depicts three wounded or injured British soldiers waiting on a bench in the receiving room of the 42nd Stationary Milirary Hospital in France.
The source is

Meghan Weber's cat is Nurse Keeny, wearing a costume her mother made for her dog. Meghan is a youngish lady who loves her cats. She loves other things too, but doesn't take so many pictures of them. Meghan's step-dad is a nurse so that's ok then.

The puking pumpkin is by Mans Sanstrom, who is a software developer in Stockholm. Mans likes Halloween and it's from his 2009 Halloween album. He also has a lot of lovely baby photos. If it's Halloween benches you're after, we have some spine-tingling ones here on Benchsite. 

The three Clip Art nursing students are from   

Why is there no bench for Mary Mahoney? Born in 1845, Mary Mahoney was the first black woman to complete nurse's training in the United States. That was in 1879, just fourteen years after the Civil War; her parents were freed slaves from North Carolina. Along with her nursing, Mary was one of the first women to register to vote in Boston following the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women's suffrage on August 26, 1920. Having spent four decades as a nurse, she died in 1926 and was inducted into the Nursing Hall of Fame in 1976.

Male nurses are sometimes proud to be called Murses, but some men hate this term.

Noah is the oldest resident here on Paradise Island. I'm not sure he's going to make a very good nurse but he certainly did a good job saving our animal benches

Dressing up as nurses is very popular apparently. These girls dressed up as nurses were photographed by Szater in 2007. The photo is in the public domain at

The nurse zombie was photographed by James Jardine in 2010.   James has an album of Melbourne people, apart from the many zombies in his photostream. 

I have resisted the temptation to say that transplant nurses can feel rejected. If you want to appreciate the complexity of transplant surgeries, here is Abdominal Organ Retrieval and Transplantation Bench Surgery by Gabriel Oniscu (Editor), John Forsythe (Editor), and John Fung (Editor). Published in 2013 by Wiley-Blackwell, it  covers all aspects of retrieval and bench surgery of the abdominal organs. Coverage includes organ retrieval logistics and organ preservation; retrieval and bench surgery of the kidney, liver, pancreas and intestine; in situ and ex situ liver splitting; multi-organ retrieval; paediatric age-specific aspects of retrieval and bench surgery.

Edith Cavell was born in Norfolk, England in 1865. She trained at the Royal London Hospital and worked as a matron at the Berkendael Medical Institute in Brussels, where she looked after and saved the lives of many WW1 soldiers, both Allied and German. In October 1915 she helped 200 Allied soldiers escape German-occupied Belgium, for which she was arrested and executed by a German firing squad in Brussels on October 12, 1915. Her memorial is near Trafalgar Square in London

A memorial bench for Edith Cavell is at St Edmunds Chapel, Cliff Parade in Hunstanton in Norfolk. The photo is by J. Websper, taken in 2013. In Jaspar National Park in Alberta, Canada there are some splendid benches on Pyramid Island, which look out to Mount Edith Cavell. 

The Jane Delano Memorial is a photo by Cliff, who writes:  . . . the memorial pays homage to the founder of the Red Cross Nursing Service and to Red Cross nurses. By physician and sculptor, Tait McKenzie, the memorial honors the 296 nurses, including Delano, who gave their lives as the result of World War I. Sponsored by American nurses, it was dedicated in April 1933, making it the first sculpture to be placed on the grounds of Red Cross Square. A curved stone wall and continuous bench embrace this monumental bronze figure of a veiled and draped woman who reaches with outstretched arms to those in need.  The inscription, a verse from the 91st Psalm reads: Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.  

Mollie Spalding's memorial bench honours her work as a practice nurse at Mayfield Medical Centre in Torbay, Devon. She died in 2011.

A carved marble bench outside the main entrance to Garden City Hospital in Michigan is a memorial to Doris Wilcox, who worked at the hospital for 45 years in the Emergency Room and in Community Education. Donated by Doris's three children, the bench has a scene of the Maine coast with a lighthouse and a photograph of Doris. 

Ron Evans, born in 1954, was working as a Mental Health Liaision nurse in Wales when he passed away in 2013. A Clinical Nurse Specialist at Morriston Hospital, his colleagues, friends and family raised money to purchase a memorial bench. 

The memorial plaque for Judy Soverel is on a bench on the second floor of the Martin Memorial Cancer Center in Stuart, Florida. Judy was an RN, OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse), 1949-2002.  The photo was put on Wikimedia in 2011 by Stephen B Calvert Clariosophic.

No comments:

Post a Comment