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A Legacy of Caring: Nursing at Mildmay Mission Hospital

Mildmay nurse Maud Haynes in 1921
Mildmay nurse Maud Haynes in 1921*

Mildmay Mission Hospital has a long and distinguished history of providing excellent nursing care to the most vulnerable.

Originally founded in the 1860s, during an epidemic of cholera and typhus, by Reverend William Pennefather and his wife Catherine, the hospital began as a mission to serve the poor and sick of the East End's worst slums near the Old Nichol, one of the most notorious areas of nineteenth-century London. In the following decades, Mildmay Mission Hospital earned a reputation for its compassionate and innovative care, and in the late 20th century, became famous for its pioneering work with HIV/AIDS patients.

Nursing is at the Heart of Mildmay's Mission

Nurses have always played a central role in Mildmay's mission. In the early days, the hospital's nursing staff comprised a dedicated group of Christian women recruited by Catherine and known as 'Deaconesses'. These women provided medical care and emotional and spiritual support to people who otherwise had little or no recourse.

An unknown Victorian lady (Deaconess) and a group portrait of Deaconesses
An unknown Victorian lady (Deaconess) and a group portrait of Deaconesses

Florence Nightingale had great respect for the Deaconesses. She admired their dedication to practical training and their focus on holistic care, both values she championed in her reforms. She lauded "every attempt to train in practical activity all female missionaries," indicating her support for the Deaconesses' pioneering role in nursing education.

Nightingale's emphasis on sanitation, hygiene, and proper patient care would have resonated with nursing practices at Mildmay, known for their cleanliness and focus on comfort. Her advocacy for holistic care, including emotional and spiritual well-being, aligned with the Deaconesses' approach, which went beyond solely medical treatment, although she may have disagreed with some aspects, such as their religious focus, which differed from her secular approach to nursing.

Mildmay nurse training certificate from 1951
1950 nurse training certificate

Mildmay continued to train nurses throughout the twentieth century and today, the hospital continues to provide professional and personal learning and development opportunities for nursing and clinical students on placement - and there is always great demand for placements at Mildmay.

Mildmay's nurses still uphold the tradition of holistic care, working in partnership with doctors, therapists, and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care.

Students benefit from working closely with a comprehensive multidisciplinary team of medical professionals, therapists, social workers, and volunteers, developing their general as well as specialist knowledge and skills during their placement. The hospital also runs an Education Exchange Programme that provides reciprocal learning experiences for trainee GPs through short-term placements at Kumi Hospital in Eastern Uganda.

Making a Difference, One Patient at a Time

Mildmay nurses today

Mildmay's nurses make a real difference in the lives of their patients. In addition to providing clinical care, Mildmay's nurses also play an important role in supporting patients' emotional and social well-being.

Through their expertise, compassion, and dedication, they help patients manage their HIV/AIDS, regain their health, and live full and meaningful lives.

As Mildmay Mission Hospital looks to the future, nursing will continue to play a vital role in the hospital's mission. The hospital is committed to providing the highest quality care to people living with HIV/AIDS and those requiring physical and psychological rehabilitation and recovery from substance misuse, and nurses will always be at the forefront of this effort.


*Read more about Maude here.



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