The royal family has teamed up to call nurses around the world for International Nurses Day in a show of solidarity and thanks for the healthcare profession amid the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Royal, the Countess of Wessex and Princess Alexandra all played their part in the unprecedented mass of global royal phone calls, messages and video chats as they paid tribute to nurses’ “incredible work”.
Kate and Sophie joined forces to speak together to nurses as far afield as India, Australia, Malawi, Cyprus, the Bahamas and Sierra Leone, as well as in the UK.
In a montage of the calls, messages and videos released on social media, Kate said: “I don’t know how you manage to do this and keep the show on the road despite the extra pressures you’re all under and the challenging conditions – it’s just shown how vital the role that nurses play across the world. You should be so proud of the work that you do.”
She branded it “amazing” that the nurses were still able to continue their support and care during the pandemic.
Sophie told some of the nurses: “I hope you’re feeling some of the love as well”.
The Queen rang Professor Kathleen McCourt, president of the Commonwealth Nurses and Midwives Federation and Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing of which the head of state is patron, from Windsor Castle where the monarch has been staying in lockdown.
In audio of her telephone conversation, the Queen, who was greeted by Professor McCourt with a “Good afternoon Your Majesty”, could be heard saying: “This is rather an important day … because obviously they’ve had very important part to play recently.”
The Palace said it believed it could be the first time the audio of part of a call by the Queen had been released.
Prof McCourt told ITV News that having recognition from the “highest level” meant a “tremendous amount” to nurses and added: “There was a genuine interest, there was a gratitude that I can offer to the rest of my nurses in the Commonwealth and also here in the UK.”
Heir to the throne Charles, in an excerpt from his video message to all nurses, said: “On this International Nurses’ Day, my family and I want to join in the chorus of thank yous to nursing and midwifery staff across the country and indeed the world.”
Many of the nurses were seen wearing face masks, as they spoke to the royals about the impact of the coronavirus.
A Palace spokeswoman said: “On every call, the royal family reiterated their thanks to nurses across the Commonwealth for the incredible work they do on a daily basis.”
Kate is patron of the Nursing Now campaign, the global initiative to raise the status and profile of nurses, while Sophie is a global ambassador of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
The pair spoke with nurses across the Commonwealth including those at Gidgee Healing in Queensland, Australia.
They also chatted with HIV and maternal health nurses at the Phalombe District Hospital in Malawi; mental health nurses at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre in Nassau in the Bahamas, those working at Aberdeen Women’s Centre in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and the LV Prasad Eye Institute and Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, India.
They heard from those in Sierra Leone how their previous experience of Ebola had helped shape their response to the Covid-19 disease.
Anita Kamara, fistula supervisor and nurse at the women’s centre in Sierra Leone, said afterwards: “Having the future Queen and the countess speak to us today was really special.”
The duchess and Sophie went on to speak to staff at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, of which Kate is patron.
Sophie is Colonel in-Chief of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, and with Kate, called Army nurses from the Corps stationed in Cyprus.
The countess joked about Kate wanting help with her children when one of the medics, Corporal David Thomas, revealed his ex-wife was a teacher.
“Yes. I’d quite like her to come and help me with home schooling,” the duchess admitted.
Camilla recorded messages of support for nurses from the Royal Naval Medical Service and Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children Charity, while the Princess Royal called Tanzania to speak with the programme manager of a medical ship that provides facilities for those with little or no access to medical care.
William last week talked to nurses at the Royal Marsden, of which he is patron, and Princess Alexandra spoke with the head of the Naval Nursing Service in her role as patron of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Naval Nursing Service.
The duke told them they were doing a terrific job, adding said: “Thank God for the Royal Marsden right now, I can tell you that.”
International Nurses Day takes place on Florence Nightingale’s birthday and this year is the 200th anniversary of Nightingale’s birth.