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The legacy of  Florence Nightingale will be celebrated at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus this weekend as an international nursing conference examines the relevance of her pioneering ideas to the modern profession.Ulster’s School of Nursing at Magee has teamed up with the Florence Nightingale Foundation, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Health and Social Care Trusts to host a three-day event which marks the centenary anniversary of her death.

The conference will also examine the future of nursing in today’s modern society and will tackle key issues such as infection control, hygiene and patient care. It will also explore the application of Nightingale’s ideas in the 21st century.An exhibition featuring the Nightingale lamp, personal letters penned by the founder of the nursing profession, historical nursing memorabilia from across Ireland and the Magee Visitor’s Book, which Nightingale signed on a visit to the then recently opened College in 1867, will be on public display.

While the exact reason for Nightingale’s visit to Magee is unknown Pat Deeny, Senior Lecturer in Nursing at Magee, explains: “There is little doubt that Nightingale came here on Friday 31st May 1867. The quality and authenticity of the signature confirms this. As to why she came remains conjecture. Magee at that time was a architectural showpiece. This alongside plans to educate women placed Magee ahead of its time and Nightingale would have been aware of this."Other reasons for her visit could have been her close links with the Lawrence family of Londonderry especially Sir John Lawrence the Viceroy of India  or her friendship with fellow nurse pioneer Agnes ‘Una’ Jones, who came from nearby Fahan, County Donegal. But in short, we simply do not know what brought Nightingale to the Derry that year.”

Mary Spinks, Director of the Florence Nightingale Foundation and a Visiting Professor at Ulster’s School of Nursing said: “Events have been held all over the world this year to mark the centenary of Nightingale’s death. Nurses from across the UK and Ireland  will celebrate the life and work of this pioneering nurse at this major conference this weekend. Many of Florence Nightingale’s ideas are as relevant today as they were in the 1800s.“The City of Derry and Magee in particular has poignant links with Florence Nightingale through her protégé Agnes Jones. Agnes trained at the Nightingale Training School in St Thomas’s Hospital, London and inspired by her mentor, went on to pioneer a trained nursing service in the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.”  

Dr Owen Barr, Head of the School of Nursing at Ulster, added: “The School of Nursing is proud to be associated with the celebration of Florence Nightingale’s contribution to nursing. These celebrations will provide an opportunity to reflect on Nightingale’s work and recognise the significance of its development for nursing to date and the insight it could provide in the future development of nursing across hospitals, communities and wider public health settings.”

Alan Corry Finn, Executive Director of Nursing and Director of Primary Care and Older Peoples Services, Western Trust, said: “I am delighted that I and other Western Health and Social Care Trust staff are able to participate in this significant event. It will be a great opportunity to network with colleagues and to learn from each others' experiences. Many of Florence Nightingale’s teachings and values are still very pertinent today within nursing and healthcare provision. This is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on her work, teachings and wise words.” Florence Nightingale: Relevance in the 21st Century, takes place from Friday 14 May until Sunday 16 May at the University of Ulster’s Magee campus.