An array of celebrations will recognise the thousands of incredible nurses and midwives working across St George’s, Epsom and St Helier hospitals group.

Free breakfasts, an awards ceremony, and drop-in sessions are among the events taking place today (Friday 12 May) to mark International Nurses Day.

Group Chief Nurse Arlene Wellman – the most senior internationally-trained nurse in the UK – will be attending some of these to thank the 4,978 nursing and midwifery staff working across the Group.

“Not a day goes by when I’m not amazed by what they do,” said Arlene. “I see how hard our nurses and midwives work to care for our patients, and I’m so proud of each and every one of them.

“We have a diverse workforce, with our nursing and midwifery colleagues representing 74 nationalities. That makes me very proud, too.

“A huge thank-you to all of our compassionate, talented, dedicated nurses and midwives. I’m ever so honoured to work alongside all of you.”

Arlene moved to the UK from Trinidad and Tobago more than two decades ago, and started her career as a general registered nurse. She intended to become a midwife – but fell in love with elderly care nursing.

Arlene then worked her way up to hold a number of senior nursing roles for other hospital trusts, before joining Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust in 2018 as its most senior nurse. In this role, she saw the Trust through the most challenging period in its history as Chief Nurse and Director of Infection Prevention and Control during the pandemic.

Last year, Arlene became the first Group Chief Nursing Officer for St George’s, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals and Health Group – while also receiving her MBE in recognition of her contribution to nursing. In total, she has dedicated 27 years to a career in this field.

“At the very start of my career, I set out to help people,” said Arlene. “Even from a young age, I knew that is what I wanted to do. And in nursing, I have been able to do just that.

“This is now my second International Nurses’ Day as the proud Group Chief Nurse for our hospitals group, and as I look back and reflect at the career I chose, I know I wouldn’t change a thing.”

International Nurses Day celebrations got under way with free breakfasts at Epsom and St Helier’s restaurants – with Arlene at Epsom to serve up food to colleagues.

At St George’s, there are two main events taking place today – one this morning, with information stands and activities including reiki and reflexology, and an awards ceremony in the afternoon, complete with speeches and a special quiz.

Staff have also been encouraged to decorate their work spaces and come together for a “bring and share” lunch.