The Pelican Awards Studentspeter pelican

What is ‘The Pelican’?  The ‘Pelican’ was the name given to the badge, first introduced in 1917, which was awarded to nurses who had successfully completed their nurse education and training at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh School of Nursing, followed immediately by one year as a Staff Nurse in the Infirmary.  Over the years, holders of the badge became known, worldwide, as ‘Pelicans’.

The Pelican is an ancient symbol of charity and sacrifice, and is shown on the badge as sitting on its nest, plucking its breast to feed its young with its own blood, symbolising the nurse’s dedication to the service of others.  The same Pelican symbol was depicted on the floor of the ‘black and white’ corridor at the entrance to the old Royal Infirmary in Lauriston Place, as part of the coat of arms of the Infirmary, first officially granted in 1914, although it had been used for many years before that.  The crest of the Pelican is surrounded by the Latin words ‘Ad sanitatum gentium patet omnibus’ i.e. ‘for the health of the people, it is open to all’ which is the motto of the Royal Infirmary.

The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Nurses’ League was formed in 1936 (now The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Pelican Nurses’ League) and still exists today.  The members of the League are nurses who were awarded the Pelican badge.  It is from the League funds that the above award will be made.  (Acknowledging with thanks information and photograph (1972) from Lothian Health Services Archive, The University of Edinburgh.)

The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
Pelican Nurses' League Pelican Award


Overall aim of the Award:  The overall aim of the Pelican Award is to provide the opportunity to study patient care and contribute to improving care.  This may arise either directly or indirectly, during and/or as a result of your learning and experience in your elective placement.

Eligibility:  Nursing students who are undertaking their Adult Nursing education at The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University or Queen Margaret University and who are at the stage of planning their elective placement, in accordance with the requirements of their nursing programme.  This placement, which must be outwith the Lothian and Borders Health Board areas, may be anywhere in the world, and must be planned following the guidelines laid down by the respective University.

Funding available:  The overall budget for the Pelican Awards is decided upon each year and funding in partial support of selected applicants’ elective placement will be available annually.

Applications:  Applications will be considered by members of the League's Executive Committee Interviewing (Selection) Panel on an annual basis and must be submitted by 31st January in each year.

Guidance on how to apply--Information that should be supplied includes:

  1. Your name, matriculation number, and the stage you are at in your programme;
  2. A brief description of the reason for your choice of location for your elective placement;
  3. Details of your plan for your elective placement, to include costings;
  4. A brief statement explaining how you see your elective placement experience as potentially contributing benefits to patient care and to your own education and professional development;
  5. Contact details for your clinical elective facilitator (or personal tutor);
  6. Contact address/telephone number/email address to which the League's Executive Committee Interviewing (Selection) Panel's response should be sent.

Selection:  Short-listed applicants may be interviewed by a small panel of members of the Pelican Nurses’ League who will then select the successful applicant(s).  All applicants will be informed of the result of their application before the end of March of the year in which the application is made.

On Completion of the Elective Placement:  A Report of the elective placement, including how the Award has been utilised, must be submitted to The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Pelican Nurses’ League by 31st October of the year in which the placement takes place.  This Report should be 500 words maximum, including the title, and sent as a Word document attachment to the address below.  Reports in excess of 500 words will be returned for editing.  This Report may be published in The Pelican Nurses’ League Journal.  

Please Note:  Awards can only be made on confirmation of your placement by the practice elective host, which information will be obtained from your clinical elective facilitator (or personal tutor).

Please submit your completed Application Form by 31st January to:

Mrs Marjorie Keys,


Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Download Application form Here ...................................................updated July 2023