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Even in these pandemic times, Florence Nightingale’s legacy is clear

Compassion in our communities is going to be more valuable than ever as coronavirus takes hold, this expert said

Florence Nightingale championed care for the poor, but people on the margins still face unique health struggles – this much is clear as the world tries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kendra Schneller knows this too. She’s a modern-day Florence, caring for those with homelessness, addiction and asylum struggles as part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ health inclusion team.

The specialist nurse told The Big Issue that Nightingale’s legacy can be seen “everywhere”, even now.

“As the nursing profession advances, we are now able to do many more things than they were able to back in the days of Florence, or even the 1960s and ’70s, but I think it’s really important to remember the compassion and care we can give to our patients,” she said.

“It’s not all about the bells and the whistles, it is sometimes about those simple things – being there for somebody, helping take their mind off things. Care, empathy and compassion can help people to feel better in themselves in their times of need. That’s what I take from Florence.”

Nightingale looked out for people overlooked by wider society. There are concerns our health care system won’t do that – what can we look out for?

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“It’s about ensuring that you’re providing equal care for every member of the community and that the people who are going to be using the services are part of the design of that service.

“It’s all very well saying, ‘This is what you’ve got to do,’ but does that work for the people who need to navigate those systems? We work with very vulnerable marginalised groups and that’s often not the case.”

This is an excerpt of an article from The Big Issue magazine. To receive your copy while vendors are temporarily off the streets, you can buy individual copies from The Big Issue Shop, or in select Sainsbury’s and McColl’s stores or subscribe to the magazine for three months digitally or in print. For details head to bigissue.com/subscribe

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