Nurse badges design and symbolism
An extract, from 1896 Salisbury General Annual Report explains the sense of pride and prestige nurses impart when wearing their training badges. The three classes were bronze, silver and gold.
The excerpt reads:
Early in the year the Committee received a memorandum from the Matron recommending the granting of Badges to be worn by the members of the Nursing Staff, and the suggestion was very readily adopted in the belief that they will be much appreciated by the Nurses and valued by the Probationers, and to use Miss Johnstone’s own words “that it would give a prestige to the training school, increasing its popularity, and would be conducive, to the maintenance of a high standard of nursing.” The Badges, of which there are three Classes, were presented to the Matron, the Night Superintendent, The Head Nurses, and the Probationers in November last.
Below, are pictures and a description of a selection of the nursing badges held in our collection. As seen below, there hasn’t been any record of a ‘gold’ version being made or presented!
Salisbury General Infirmary badges
The bronze badge was awarded on completion of nurse training at Salisbury Infirmary.
The silver badge was awarded on completion of a year working on the wards at Salisbury Infirmary. The reverse of this badge is engraved with the nurse’s name, date of their training & registration number. You can also see the silver metal hallmark.
Recently come to light in our collection is an unique nursing badge, of blue enamel design. The badge was a special, one-off commission for Miss Adeline Cable who was Matron of Salisbury Infirmary from 1907-1925. Read more about Adeline Cable on our hospital jobs in World War 1 page
All three of these Infirmary nurse badges have a medal shaped, circular design with a top bar, and they carry the Salisbury General Infirmary motto ‘The sick & needy shall not always be forgotten’. This surrounds the Salisbury City crest of a shield flanked by 2 double headed eagles.
Nightingale school badge
The large blue cross design is a Nightingale School badge and was awarded to nurses who qualified from the Training School, St Thomas’ Hospital and who had also passed a hospital examination. St Thomas’ Hospital was the first School of Nursing in England. Florence Nightingale started the school in 1860. She was inspired by her experience of nursing the wounded during the Crimean War, when soldiers died in horrific conditions.
Dame Alice Lloyd Still designed the badge in 1925. It’s shaped in an eight-point cross. The eight pointed star in the background is based on the symbol of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem who created hospitals during the crusades. It still is the international symbol of first aid (look at the St John’s ambulance logo). The four arms of the cross symbolise the virtues of Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude. These are separated by the English Rose, Fleur de lys and shield found on the hospital crest. In the middle is a picture of Florence and the Latin words ‘Schola Sancti Thomae’, translated as St Thomas School. On the reverse of the badge you can see the word loyalty. The badge in our collection was awarded to a member of staff who trained at St Thomas’ Hospital and later came to Salisbury District Hospital to work.
Old Manor Hospital badge
The silver coloured badge was awarded to Old Manor Hospital trained nurses, 1960-74. The white enamel shield surrounds a blue scroll and smaller shield. This design includes the spire of Salisbury Cathedral and the five rivers of Salisbury – Ebble, Avon, Bourne, Wylye & the Nadder.
SEN Salisbury General Hospital badge
The unusual diamond-shaped, gold coloured badge with pale blue enamel has the central motif of Salisbury Cathedral – the metal has discoloured. This was awarded to State Enrolled Nurses at Salisbury General Hospital.
Sarum School of Nursing badge
The bronze badge has dark green enamel and the inscription ‘Sarum – Salisbury School of Nursing.’ Sarum is the original name for Salisbury (Old Sarum to the north of the city and New Sarum current Salisbury). The central circle contains a sun and moon combined in a stylised design. A sun and moon design is an ancient symbol of two opposites merging into a form of unity and strength.
SEN – The General Nursing Council for England and Wales
This bronze coloured badge with green enamel was awarded by The General Nursing Council for England and Wales for State Enrolled Nurses SEN. The background shape is the rose symbol of England and the inner design includes 2 stems of daffodils for Wales. The central figure is Hygieia the goddess of good health, cleanliness and hygiene – the word comes from her name.
Student Nurse Association badge
The Student Nurse Association badge has enamelled blue scrolls over a background cross, with two red enamel English roses either side. These surround the lamp of knowledge design, a symbol of nursing, with a laurel wreath. The laurel wreath is a symbol of victory that derives from ancient Greece when the winning athlete was awarded a crown of laurel leaves.
SRN – The General Nursing Council for England and Wales
The silver colour with blue enamel badge was awarded by The General Nursing Council for England and Wales for State Registered Nurses SRN. The background shape is the rose symbol of England and the inner design includes 2 stems of daffodils for Wales. The central figure is of Hygieia the goddess of good health, cleanliness and hygiene. The reverse, behind the clasp, has been engraved with the nurse’s name, registration number and date. You can also see the maker’s mark Thomas Pattorini Limited Birmingham.
Royal College of Nursing badge
The blue and red enamel oval badge was awarded by The Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom. The central motif is the crest of the RCN, this includes a lamp in front of a book. The lamp of knowledge is a symbol of nursing. Below is a shield shape with 3 stars and a sun. The red scroll at the bottom carries the Latin motto of the RCN ‘Tradimus Lampada’ meaning ‘We carry the torch’.