THE WORLD Health Organisation has made 2020 “The International Year of the Nurse and Midwife” and it seems the profession has never been more appreciated.

The Coronavirus pandemic has put nurses, carers and other key workers in the frontline of the battle to save countless lives from the ravages of Covid-19.

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

You only have to listen at 8pm on Thursdays as thousands of Cumbrians stand at their doorways and windows to “clap for our carers”.

The Cumberland News attended one event at the Cumberland Infirmary, on April 23, where Sharon Barbour, site coordinator, together with dozens of other nurses and health professionals came to clap - in line with the rules on social distancing - in a show of unity with the public.

She said: “We come out because obviously the community supports us and we want to show our appreciation.

“It shows a bit of solidarity with each other and I think it is just a really good thing to do.”

This year has been named in honour of nurses because Tuesday marked the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth.

Known as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ during the Crimea War in the 1850s -she was born on May 12, 1820.

Her birthday is also known as International Nurses Day.

She revolutionised the profession and left her mark on the county’s history.

Julie Bowman, from Carlisle, a recently retired senior nurse with 40 years experience at the Cumberland Infirmary and Louise Smith, an archivist with the county council’s Cumbria Archive Service have been delving into the history of the profession to outline the vital contribution the profession has made for well over a century.

Louise Smith said: "We have an extensive collection of resources with many available online and it shows what an important contribution nurses have made to the history of the area.”

Julie, who is also a member of the Royal College of Nursing Cumbria Board said: “It is a very special year.

“I’m still very involved and very passionate about nursing.

“Not only is it the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale it is also the centenary of nurse registration which set a standard of formalised training.

"Florence is the founder of nurse training schools and the first was at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, in 1860.

"Her protégées following completion of their education would be encouraged to take their skills to other areas and start other schools of nursing founded on the Nightingale model.”

The first nursing school in Carlisle was set up in about 1892 and forms the foundation of the healthcare in the area that we we know today.

It was based at the Cumberland Infirmary and it was set up by one of Florence's proteges and she became matron at the infirmary, laying down principles for nurse training and then went back to St Thomas' a short time later.

She was accompanied however by another staff nurse who stayed longer.

Their skills were sorely needed - this is demonstrated in one of the great catastrophes that doctors and nurses from Cumbria attended, the Quintinshill Rail Disaster which happened on May 22, 1915.

This was a multi train crash involving five trains which happened at the Quintinshill signal box near Gretna Green.

The first crash occurred when a southbound troop train travelling from Larbert to Liverpool collided with the stationary local train.

A minute later the wreckage was struck by a northbound sleeping car express train travelling from London Euston to Glasgow Central. Gas from the gas lighting system of the old wooden carriages of the troop train ignited, starting a fire which soon ravaged the trains.

Those killed were mainly territorial soldiers from the Royal Scots heading for Gallipoli.

According to the National Records of Scotland 230 died, mainly soldiers from the Royal Scots, and 224 from the regiment were injured.

Julie said: “It just shows you how nurses respond to disasters, but that is what we do - one nurse who went there only had a bottle of disinfectant and bandages, that was all she had, but we do the best we can.

"It was the biggest rail disaster in history and the nurses and doctors had to go into the carriages and do things like amputations.

"A lot of what the doctors and nurses did was never recognised, I think it was just what they did and they just got on with it."

The Coronavirus is also not the only outbreak that doctors and nurses have had to contend with in Cumbria.

For example, the Spanish flu in 1918 that some historians believe killed 50 million people worldwide and various outbreaks of polio, which is spread by a virus and can affect people's spinal cords causing paralysis.

An account of one polio outbreak, during World War One was detailed by the Evening News and Star on October 25, 1982 0 it was given by doctor Josephine Ewbank who worked in the Cumberland Infirmary at the time.

She said: "It was agony working in the hospital in those days because we didn't know how polio spread.

"We used to spend all day tending victims then go home to our families.

"Wards were full of septic wounds rather than tumours because people did not live that long."

One of the people from the area who’s made an impact on the nursing profession is Nancy Roper, born in Wetheral, Cumberland, on September 29, 1918.

She contributed to a pioneering theory of nursing that is used the world over.

She died on October 5, 2004, in Edinburgh, after a long and significant career.

At the time of her death Jane McCready, the board chair of the Scotland Royal College of Nursing said: “The practice of every nurse around the world has been influenced by Nancy Roper.

“The Roper-Logan-Tierney model of nursing is still used today as a model of that captures the core of nursing ensuring that patients are central.

She added: “Nancy’s contribution to nursing will undoubtedly continue for year to come.

Nancy began her career in 1936 as a children’s nurse but became known as a “practical theorist” in the 1960s through her writings.

Her best known work however is the Clinical Experience in Nurse Education which was first published in 1976 and was co-authored with Win Logan and Alison Tierney.

It is used as the model of nursing in the UK, America and Europe.

Anyone wanting to know more about the history of nursing in the area online resources are available at the Cumbria Archive Service. Go to: