Charles III was crowned King of the United Kingdom on Friday and a group of nurses were there to celebrate all the royal festivities, including the Queen’s Nurse Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, who presented His Majesty with the ceremonial orb on live TV.
Anionwu, a retired community nurse, founded the country’s first nurse-led sickle cell and thalassemia screening center. She told the media that it was surreal to get a phone call from Buckingham Palace asking her to be involved.
“I was six when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned,” she explained. “I was living in a children’s home, and I remember watching on a black and white TV. I would never have thought 70 years on that I’d be here. It’s a huge honor.”
She never expected to play a role in the ceremony. “It’s exciting, I’m enjoying being involved, as somebody from my background and as a nurse, I’ll be proud,” Anionwu said ahead of the coronation. “I’ve had some lovely comments, it’s very moving to get that positive feedback and to know other nurses will be watching out for me.”
Learning disability nursing student Claire Thompson was also in attendance. She won the Royal College of Nursing Northern Ireland student of the year award in 2022 for creating a new online teacher communication tool called Makaton that combines sign language and speech.
“To be invited as a guest is such an honor. I’ll be there representing all the people who use Makaton,” she said in an interview. “There’s been a lot of people who’ve helped me along the way, so I feel I’ll be representing all of those learning disability nurses, publicizing what we do as a profession. We’re not always the best at shouting about our specialty, so I’ll be representing all of them, I hope.”
Thompson started using the tool during her clinical placement at a nursing home for adults with learning disabilities. She asked her school if the technology could be incorporated into the curriculum, but they said it was too expensive, so she started highlighting the tool on TikTok where her videos have racked up over half a million views.
She had to arrive at Westminster Abbey at 7:30 a.m. the day of the ceremony, but she said it was more than worth it.
Daniel Branch, another learning disability nurse, was also invited to participate. He works at Lancashire and Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust where he supports people with learning disabilities who are struggling with mental health and behavioral issues, including the threat of eviction amid the country’s record high cost of living.
“I’m in disbelief. Never in a million years did I think I’d be invited to something like this, especially as I’ve seen reports about how it was going to be more low-key,” Branch said when he got the news.
Emily Regan, a London-based Australian nurse, went to the coronation on behalf of the Australian government.
“I have no idea why I have been chosen. It’s a real honor and overwhelming at the same time. I’m just an emergency department nurse, I haven’t done anything particularly remarkable compared to every other nurse that goes to work every day and works really hard,” she said.
Regan was the only nurse chosen by the Australian government to attend the event. She went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic for saying her country was in a “bubble” because it didn’t understand the impact of the virus.
“I am really proud to be invited,” she continued. “The delegates the Australian government has selected are a really good cross-section of society – there’s medical, health, arts, sports, research, Victoria Cross holders and indigenous representation as well. It’s important for nurses to be there – but not just nurses, allied health professionals, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers, all these people make up a really big part of the health service and we are all just everyday people that do very rewarding and challenging jobs. I’ll be proud to represent them.”
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