Emblems of Resilience: Nurses, ‘Spanish Influenza’ and lessons for Covid-19

  • Christine Hallett (Speaker)
  • Olivia Gordon (Speaker)
  • Amanda Gwinnup (Speaker)
  • Kelly Swaby (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


An online talk on nursing in the 'Spanish Flu' epidemic, and the lessons for Covid-19.

The image of the nurse as ‘invincible healer’ acted as calming device for whole populations during the 1918/19 flu pandemic.

British nurses donned uniforms and veils, and presented themselves as both military heroines and self-sacrificing angels. Evidence from media such as newspapers, journals, novels and film indicate that people were genuinely moved by these powerful exemplars of hope and civic duty, and were thus enabled to practise a form of collective resilience.

Yet, the calm, cool and courageous image of the early-twentieth-century nurse belied the pressure she was under, and many nurses became severely traumatised as a result of their wartime experiences. These talks will explore not only the mirage of safety and control presented by nurses, but also the toll this mask of resilience took upon the human being behind it. Beyond this, it will examine the extent to which nurses were enabled to recover from the trauma they experienced, and what we can learn from this regarding the impact of the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic.
Period11 Aug 2020
Held atRoyal College of Nursing, United Kingdom