many of us cherish our hard earned School of Nursing badges, many of
us collect them and spend hours watching televised medical/nurse dramas trying to
identify the badges, have you ever wondered about the history behind the
badges? Who designed them and what do the designs mean? There are books,
articles in nursing journals and websites about their history and many
badges reflect the changes within the profession. I recently posted an
article on the MSN nursing badge website about my favourite badges and
was subsequently persuaded to write this one for 'schoolsofnursing’. So
here goes in the hope you enjoy.
Note:Many other professions allied to medicine (PAM's) also issue great badges
and many overseas hospitals also issue them. They're not unique to UK
There are so many beautiful nursing and hospital
badges, different shapes, different sizes
to me, are more beautiful than others. My favourite badge is the Royal
Air Force (RAF)
nurse training school badge. Photographs just cannot do justice to the
beauty and design of this badge. It is so very 3 dimensional. Another 3D
badge is the St Andrews’ (Northampton) badge.
The RAF badge was designed by one of its trained nursing staff.
The Hull Royal Hospital badge is beautifully designed and the Charing Cross solid and
impressive; The Worcester Royal is small and delicate. The Royal
Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham, is unpolished silver and the appearance differs
noticeably from the brightly polished silver. My Western Infirmary Glasgow is solid
and heavy silver. I have to confess I find one or two badges
somewhat ugly, but so as not to offend I won't mention any names as this
is a subjective judgement.
Some designs reflect the speciality - for example - the Oxford eye
hospital badge is designed to look like an eye (described as elliptical
in the literature), which shows a lamp in the centre of a blue iris. I
find this badge somewhat spooky!!!
I trained at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield (North Birmingham).
The hospital badge is designed to look like a dark blue Maltese cross.
The Midwifery badge for Good Hope Maternity Hospital is of the same
design and was designed by one of its Senior Nursing Officers (Gladys
Paddock). This badge is round with the general hospital cross in the
middle featuring a baby held in hands. The whole emblem is placed within
an outer circle so that the points of the cross don't harm a baby whilst
being held by a midwife - a case of design and function. Hopefully, in
the future, when we can post photographs directly to galleries this site, you
be better able to see what I'm trying to describe and make your own mind up as to whether
a badge is beautiful and/or a great design.
been traditional for many years for hospital training schools to issue
hospital badges to qualified nurses. Many of these badges have
their origins in military, chivalric and religious orders. The
Victorians had a great love of medals and decorations. It was in the
1860s that some hospitals introduced prizes in the form of medals &
badges to encourage higher standards.
Some early examples include 1879 - the Workhouse Infirmary Nursing
presented medal-type badges, followed in 1887 by the Queen's
Nursing Institute who issued its district nurses and members with a
badge. The design of this has undergone many changes over the years. In
1919, following the work and campaigning of Mrs Bedford Fenwick and her
supporters - the Nurse's Registration act entered the statute books.
State General Nursing Council (GNC) badge that we all know came about in 1922 and in the 1940s
the SEN badge came into being for England & Wales. In Scotland there was
a different system and a different design for their state badge. Note: The early GNC badges were made of silver (I believe they changed to
chrome during the war).
badges ceased to be issued in 1983 following the restructuring of the
statutory bodies and the advent of the United Kingdom Central Council (UKCC).
OK, history lesson over..... Have you ever wondered about the GNC badges
It's shape is based on a rose - the symbol of England. In the centre is Hygeia
(the goddess of
health) and has 2
sheaves of daffodils on either
the symbol of Wales.
The blue enamel is the
with nursing. The SEN badge is the same shape and design but made of
bronze (occasionally chromed) with green enamel (the colour associated with
State Enrolled Nurses (SENs). On the rear
of the badge the nurses,
registration number and qualifying date
found. As for Mrs
Bedford-Fenwick… Well, she was SRN number 1...
Note: I hadn't realised, until I started collecting, how
complex an issue the designs on badges were. There are many reasons for
the designs - mythology, local relevance amongst many. When I was asked
to write an article or two to explore this issue with the hope, that
other members such as yourself, would contribute to a very in-depth
subject. My future plans for articles is to take a broad look at designs
and to give examples (where possible) of badges where they can be found.
If possible I'll try and list the designers name - but this is a subject
that could run into many hours and pages - which is why I'm just writing
a brief article on each particular subject such as Midwifery, animals on
badges, mythology, local history etcetera. Next - about the Scottish State
Scottish State Badges.
Like the England & Wales (E&W) GNC and nursing act of 1919 - the Nurses
Registration (Scotland) Act 1919 also came about. These councils issued badges
from 1925 until 1983, when the UKCC took over their roles. No more badges were
issued. The Scottish GNC badges for Registration and Enrolment are of a
completely different design - unlike their E&W counterparts. The
Scots Registration badges are circular
in shape and superimposed on a Geneva cross. The centre shows the
Scottish Saltire (a white St Andrews cross on a dark blue background) on
all registration badges.
The Enrolled Nurse badge (right) is described in the literature
as acorn shaped with 2 semi circular bands at the top - with the words
General nursing council of Scotland. The enrolled nurse qualifications
are found in the acorn piece. This was the successor to the Scots
'Enrolled Assistant Nurse' badge, which had the same design features but
the different wording.
A major difference between the issue of badges by the two countries lay in the actual issue of
badges. In E&W nurses only received one badge upon qualification, which had
be returned to the GNC if a second qualification was gained and
re-engraving requested. The badge would then be re-engraved with any further
qualifications that might have been obtained - SRN/RFN/RSCN/RMN/RMNS/H -
were all possibilities - plus numbers and dates)... In
Scotland a further badge (same design) was issued with the qualification
stated on the front, for example - 'Registered Mental Nurse Scotland',
(named/numbered/dated on the reverse side. It was
to have 5 individual Scottish GNC badges, should you have undertaken all the
specialised nursing courses (6 if the nurse started as an EN), whilst only receiving one
badge in E&W!!!
In practice few nurses gained more than two state qualifications.
Flowers and animal life...
Many badges reflect their ideals as flowers
or animals. A purple butterfly is on the Simpson Memorial badge - purple
being the colour of immortality. An osprey backed by mountains is shown
on the Highland badge. Midwifery badges tend to favour flowers/fruit.
The pomegranate, as seen on the early Royal College of Midwives badge
represents fertility. Snowdrops on the Glasgow Royal maternity are for
motherhood. The 1962 Central midwives board for Scotland shows a thistle
(for Scotland) 3 Oyster catchers (birds - associated with St Bride the
Scottish saint of fertility) and 1 dove representing care & attention. There is a
phoenix on the Coventry badge to show its history following the bombings
during WW2 - the phoenix represents the re-building of the city (the
bombed out Cathedral is well worth a visit).
The Southampton eye hospital shows a symbolic eagle with drops of red
enamel. The red enamel is the heraldic representation for surgery and
the eagle is a reference to the wonderful eyesight of birds of prey.
The tree shown on the Orthopaedic Cert and Diploma badges is a plane
represents the one that Hippocrates stood under - it is also linked to the
badges of Orthopaedic Associations. The white rose of Yorkshire is shown
on their Woodlands Orthopaedic hospital badge. A white York rose can be
found on the princess Elizabeth Orthopaedic hospital in honour of the
then Duchess of York (late Queen Mother) A green leaved tree on the
Wolverhampton & counties eye badge represents the fruit growing region
And finally on this theme...... A competition was held in 1968 for a design for the
newly amalgamated Rowley Bristow Orthopaedic hospital. Its winning designer was
Miss M Burnett, a secretary, and shows a horse chestnut leaf - which
represented the avenue of horse chestnut trees that led to the hospital.
Badges and the Gods...
mentioned earlier the goddess Hygeia appears in the centre of the
England & Wales GNC state badge. She is the goddess of health - her
father being Aesculpius the God of medicine - who also appears on
Juno Lucino is famous for her appearance on many midwifery
related badges such as the State Certified Midwife (SCM) badge. She is the goddess of
childbirth and is often portrayed holding a baby in her right hand. The
phoenix is represented on Coventry's badge (see fauna and flora for more
about this aspect). The red dragon of Wales is on the orthopaedic hospital badge with
the rod & staff of Aesculapis. The Welsh dragon can be found on many of
its hospital badges (in the same way the Saltire appears on Scottish
ones) including the mid-Glamorgan School of Nursing badge.
The Caduceus that appears on some badges represents the staff (or rod) of Mercury/Hermes -messenger of the gods.
It can be seen, for example, on the Neville
Hall (Gwent) hospital badge, as well as Oxford's Nuffield Orthopaedic centre
beautiful example can be seen on the RAF training school badge
Last but not least the blue bird of happiness appears on the Bath &
Wessex Orthopaedic Hospital badge. It appears on the left shield and was taken
from the Central Council for the Care of Cripples whose motto was "The
blue bird of happiness and independence" - a nice thought for such a
politically incorrect name.
Religion, Christianity and secular virtues.
Many nurses’ badges have their origins in religion, Christianity and
secular virtues. Many religious orders and work/poor houses later
developed into nurse training schools or hospitals. The medallions that
many religious sisters and brethren wore to denote their allegiance to
an order can now be seen in many nursing badges. Examples of these
include the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, the Sisters
of Charity and St John the Devine. This is a subject well worth reading
and is worth an article all of its own.
Patron saints also appear on numerous badges. These include St Andrew
(Scotland), St Appolonius (dentists), St Blaise (sore throats), St Bride
(Scottish saint of fertility), St Mungo (Glasgow), St George (England) and
St Peter, the most important Apostle and keeper of the keys of Heaven.
St Mungo is represented at the top of the Glasgow Royal Maternity
Hospital issued in 1959, being designed jointly by the Matron, Asst Matron
and Principle Tutor - and the design executed by the artist brother of a midwife. The Saltire representing St Andrew can be seen at the bottom of the badge. The 1962 issue of the Central Midwives Board for Scotland has 3
oystercatchers and these birds are associated with St Bride. St Andrew
can be seen on the St Andrews Hospital Northampton badge holding a white
cross (again for Scotland). This badge is almost 3D in effect and the
pictures don’t do it justice. St Peter is featured on the midwifery
badge of St Peter’s Surrey Hospital badge. Issued in 1973 when the
maternity unit opened. The design is taken from the sculpture found in
the courtyard (by Miss Lancaster) and at the suggestion of the
Consultant Obstetrician (Mr Norris) Miss Lancaster incorporated the
design into the badge with a few extra features. St Peter is holding
keys in his left hand whilst blessing a mother & baby with the other.
The pomegranate tree is depicted (ancient sign of fertility) with St
Peter's Abbey in the background (this was the wealthiest abbey in
England until the dissolution).
St Vincent’s Orthopaedic Hospital shows
St Vincent de Paul sheltering children under his cape. This badge was
issued in 1967. The hospital was founded as St Vincent’s Cripples Home
in 1907 and the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent DePaul cared for the
boys. The Cross of Lorraine is a double-armed cross and a 9th Century
religious symbol. It was adopted by Godfrey de Bouillon Duke of lower
Lorraine (the first knight to enter Jerusalem in the crusades of 1099).
This can be found on the various badges of the British Thoracic
Association and the 1966 badge of Benenden Chest Hospital (designed by
the Matron). The Brompton Hospital’s badge issued in 1974 shows
the Good Samaritan. The design was taken from the large plaque displayed
in the hospital entrance.
Finally on this theme…. and hopefully amusing - the badge of the Royal ENT hospital London .
This badge features St Blaise (also patron saint of wool combers) and a
small boy pointing to his throat. He was a 4th century bishop who saves
the life of a boy who was choking on a fishbone. The boy’s mother lit
candles in thanks and it is from this that the medieval practice of
placing 2 crossed candles upon the sore throats of suffer. (I wonder if
this was better than strepsils?!!!..).
St Blaise later died under torture - having his flesh torn away by a comb
used for teasing wool. His emblems are an iron wool-comb and 2 crossed
As we all
know Juno Lucino, the goddess of childbirth, appears on the
State/Certified Midwives badge. In 1967 the design of the Royal College
of Midwives (RCM) changed and in the centre shield is the Star of
Bethlehem (or the Morning Star) which is the sign of birth.. In a scroll
below the shield is their motto – Vita Donium Dei – 'Life is the Gift of
Here are a few more Latin mottos with their translation:-
Nos Ministamus Deus Saret- 'We minister, God heals' - Beckett Hospital
Salus Populi (on Southport SoN's & Town badge) I understood to mean
either 'Save or 'Serve' the people. Salus Populi is literally health of
the people, but in the Christian religion it is often taken as
protectress, associated with the Virgin Mary or Madonna.
Caritas christi urget nos - 'The charity of Christ urges us' - St Vincent’s
Orthopaedic hospital and I believe this appears on the Myddleton Square
hospital badge as well.
Semper ad Suprema - 'Always the Highest/Best/Most Heavenly' - (take your pick)
- Leicester General Hospital.
Nos Nostraque Deo - 'We and Ours to God' - Plaistow Trained nurse.
Labor fidelis - 'Faithful to Work' - West London Hospital.
Deo dante damus - 'God gives to us that we may give to others' - Robert Jones &
Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, Oswestry.
*Many thanks to colleagues from the Nursing Badge website for some of the
Arms, History, Industry and Benefactors.
badges take their designs from other sources such as City arms, local
history, industry, or from benefactors. The Queen Charlotte Maternity
hospital bears the coat of arms of Queen Charlotte. The Duke of Sussex
persuaded his family including his mother (who was Queen Charlotte) to
donate to the then “lying-in-hospital” charity whose funds had almost
disappeared, between 1800-1809. When Queen Charlotte died the hospital
changed its name. A similar story can be found at Birmingham’s Sorrento
Hospital. It was formerly private home owned by William Adams and named
Sorrento after the Adams' favourite Italian holiday resort. The Adams
family motto appears on the badge - Nil Absque Labore.
The Coat of Arms for Birmingham appears on some of its badges including
the City Midwives Service and the Birmingham & Midland Eye hospital.
Bristol Maternity Hospital was previously a convalescent home for
recovering patients from the other Bristol Hospitals. It was then used as
hospital for service men in the Second World War. The badge dates from the
1950s and has the Bristol City coat of arms on it.
Hospital was a Canadian hospital and the Canadian Maple
leaf is on its design as well as on the Solihull school of midwifery. (I
have 2 aunts who remember when the hospital was used by the Canadians and also it
just happens to be the hospital where I was born - alas like many others
no longer there).
Reference note: 'built in 1938 and used by the Canadians until
the end of WW2 - known as the 19th Canadian General Hospital. It
became the Marston Green Maternity hospital & Hospital for women
in 1948 - one of the earliest opened under the newly founded NHS.
Midwifery training began in 1950. The multi coloured maple leaf
is to represent its Canadian origins. Designed by senior
midwifery staff and local medal manufacturers.Superimposed on
the leaf is the City of B/ham coat of arms. Also found in the
1966 Guiness book of records as being the largest maternity unit
in the UK- following restructuring within the NHS (1974) it
became the Solihull area midwifery training school and a new
design was commisioned'....
The Lord Mayor Treloar Hospital has the Coat of Arms of its benefactor
Sir William Treloar.
The Wolverhampton & Midland Counties Eye Infirmary has a Staffordshire
knot to show its links with that county. The padlock represents the
local locksmith industry, the leopards head is taken from Walsall’s Coat
of Arms and the tree represents the fruit growing region of
Worcestershire. Hereford General Hospital has a fruit press representing
its fruit growing and cider industry.
Designs in history - Fobs and Medals.
Not only do badges come as a solid piece with a rear pin attachment but
some are designed
as medals or have a fob type appearance. One of the
most famous medal type is the large and heavy one from Charing Cross
Hospital. The badge, consisting of a Maltese cross with four fleur-de-leys
in each corner, was made into a bronze medal and it is rumoured that the
bronze metal was from a cannon captured in the Crimean war. The ribbon
attached is supposedly from the Colonel in Chief of the
Household Brigade who was thrown from his horse and taken to the
hospital. In order to show his gratitude for his nursing treatment, he asked
Queen Victoria for the right of nurses at the hospital to wear the
ribbon of the regiment. An impressive medal and, as
a nurse, I wonder about it accidentally hitting a patient being nursed by
a nurse wearing it.
An example of a fob type is the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing in
Birmingham. The badge was brown in colour reflecting the brown shoes and
cloak, of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital uniform. It consists of a bar and octagonal badge. The
design of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Nurse Training School badge depicts a shield
and is taken from the crest of
the General Hospital which in its turn is founded on the crest of
(the founder of the general hospital). The shield is in gold and blue, is derived from the arms of Bowes and the lions from the arms of Lyon (paternal
arms of the late Queen Mother) and honours the naming of the Queen
Elizabeth Hospital. The dolphin is taken from the arms of the Tippets.
Others include the British Thoracic Society, founded in 1924 (under
another name) its design and name changes reflecting amalgamations of
similar bodies. The lower piece shows the Lorraine cross, a religious
symbol from the Duke of Lower Lorraine with the lion representing Great
Britain. The first badges were issued in 1952. After 1981 they became
extinct after the British Thoracic Society stopped setting nurses exams.
There are others such as Dundee Royal, Paisley Royal Alexandra
Infirmary, Stirling Royal and East Fife. East Fife is unusual that it
has 2 pin attachment s at the rear - one on the top bar and one on the
lower shield. Other medal types include the Plaistow Trained Nurse and the
Saint Mary’s Hospital Portsmouth.
Designs in history.
Badges come in many different shapes and sizes, each
with it's own story to tell. Designed by staff, patrons and winners of
competitions. Each badge represents a theme such as local history,
industry, its benefactors, religion, myths and wildlife. Many designs
share similar shapes. Midwifery badges always have rounded edges to
prevent accidental harm to babies. Many are circular whilst others
prefer a Maltese cross design.
The hospital badge was the means by which nurses were able to
distinguish their training school and is quite an important feature of
the nurses uniform, worn with some pride. Following the demise of the GNC state badges in 1983, many hospital badges
also became obsolete as
Schools of Nursing joined academia and became colleges or joined universities.
Students became super-numery. Training became much more classroom based
as opposed to
ward based. Some colleges and universities awarded badges on
completion of training. Examples of these include the Gwent College of
Nursing and Midwifery, University Hospital of Wales, Robert Gordon
University (Aberdeen) and Manchester College of Nursing & Midwifery.
There was no real replacement for the state badge.
What of the future?
So, what of the future? We live in a multi-cultural , multi-religious
and more enlightened, politically correct society. Would any of the past designs be
allowed off the drawing board? Would the Bath and Wessex Hospital be
allowed to portray the bluebird - a representation from the former
Central Council for the Care of Cripples whose motto was “ The Bluebird
of Happiness and Independence”. Would our badges be allowed to have
saints or other religious symbols/icons?
Many of the individual hospitals have disappeared, amalgamated and
absorbed, or closed - becoming derelict, a housing estate, or perhaps a branch of Tesco's.
Often, one of the only physical things left is the
badge, plus our memories and those who do what they can to preserve nursing
history. The school of nursing badge and old state badges are preserving
some of this history, long
after all else has disappeared. As the history of both nursing and
medicine has changed, the changes have often reflected in changing designs of
Nursing badges are not unique to the United Kingdom (UK). They exist over much of the
along with badges from Professions Allied to Medicine( PAMS) such as
Radiography and Physiotherapy. A solid trace on professional history.
Nursing badge design is a huge and equally, a fascinating topic. In this
article I have only been able to scratch the
surface. There are websites dedicated to the nursing badge
historian/collector as well as derelict places/hospitals, where
much information can be found (some links are in the Rt hand column -
So, if you have your own school of nursing badge, wear it with pride - and
don't forget to photograph it for prosperity. If you are a collector,
remember that the issued badges that you may hold represent years of
hard work by the original recipients and were once, in all probability,
among their most highly
This is our first published article here at schools of
nursing. We hope that there will be many more. We offer our
grateful thanks to it's author, Susan Sullivan, whose final
paragraphs arrived with the request that we display just one
more badge - that of Scotland's Leith Hospital School of
Nursing. Like many Scottish badges, this one is a small, but
perfect, 3 Dimensional gem. Superb in finely worked silver and
beautifully coloured enamel. Even the inscribed nurse-name and
dates are so perfectly and finely executed. Quite perfect! The
'photo just cannot do it justice. But here it is Susan, thank
Schools of Nursing.
Hospital Photograph Collections.
Nursing and Hospital badges.
Irish Nursing Badges.
Nursing & Midwifery Council.
Royal College of Nursing.
Marple & Bradley
Eg.Tip: Select 'search', 'View
Forthcoming Auctions' select 'Search or
Browse Lots to be Sold' and enter 'hospitals'
in the description field.