Florence Nightingale


Florence Nightingale   1820 - 1910

    English Nurse, Founder of Modern Nursing

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)
Florence Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing. She transformed nursing into a respectable profession and set the standards for clean, safe hospitals in the world. Florence is honored as the first great nurse of the world. Her picture hangs on the wall in many hospitals.

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy. She was named Florence after her city of birth. Florence's sister was born in Naples and is named Parthenope. Parthenope is the Greek name for Naples.

Florence's Calling
When Florence was 24 years old, she had a "calling" from God. She wrote in her journal, "God spoke to me and called me to His service." Florence decided her calling was to help the sick and the poor by becoming a nurse.

Florence came from a wealthy family and was not expected to work. It was especially unacceptable for Florence to work as a nurse because nursing was not a respectable profession at this time. This, however, did not stop Florence from following her desires.

Florence went to the Institute of Deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany, to learn about nursing. At this time, nurses learned through experience, not through training. Florence treated sick people, distributed medicine, and assisted during operations. She was very happy and said, "We learned to think of our work, not ourselves."

The Crimean War
In 1854, England entered the Crimean War. Florence and a team of 38 nurses went to the Crimea (near Turkey) to help the wounded soldiers. The military hospitals were dirty and run down. Florence made sanitary improvements which helped bring the death rate down from 40% to 2%.

Florence was kind and gentle with the soldiers. She would talk with them and comfort them as she made her rounds. This gave the soldiers hope. When Florence made her rounds at night, she carried a lamp with her to light her way and became known as "The Lady with the Lamp."

The Red Cross
Florence's work in the Crimean War inspired Jean Henri Dunant. In 1864, Dunant founded the International Red Cross. It began as an international society of volunteers who cared for sick and wounded soldiers and prisoners of war. Today, the Red Cross also provides disaster relief during peacetime.

Hospital Improvements
During Florence's time, the hospitals were overcrowded, poorly run, and disease infested. They were doing more harm than good. Florence thought hospitals should help patients, not hurt them. This was a revolutionary idea at the time.

Florence wrote Notes on Hospitals explaining how to make improvements to hospitals. She believed hospitals needed better ventilation, more windows, improved drainage, and less cramped conditions. With Florence's guidance, hospitals became clean and sanitary places where lives were saved, not lost.

Florence also became an expert on designing hospitals. Foreign rulers sought her advice when building their hospitals. Soon, hospitals throughout the world were being built according to her ideas.

Today, we still see how Florence has improved hospitals. The flowers, recreation rooms, and bright wards are an influence of Florence's work.

Nightingale Training School for Nurses
Florence thought nurses should learn through both experience and training. In 1860, Florence opened the first training school for nurses. It was called the Nightingale Training School, and the nurses were called Nightingale Nurses. Today, the Nightingale Nurses carry on Florence's work of caring for the sick and the poor.

Nursing becomes a Respectable Profession
Florence created high standards for the nursing profession. These standards helped transform nursing into the respectable profession we know today. Florence's writings continue to provide excellent resources for nurses and health care providers. Her book, Notes on Nursing, spells out the principles of nursing.

Remembering Florence
Florence Nightingale died on August 13, 1910, in London, England. She was 90 years old. She is buried at St. Margaret's, East Wellow, near her family home at Embley. Her inscription states, "F.N. Born 1820. Died 1910." She did not want any other memorial. Many nurses came to pay tribute to Florence at her funeral.

Florence has been commemorated on stamps, medals, and the British £10. The Florence Nightingale Pledge for nurses is still recited today. In England, there are two wreath laying ceremonies to commemorate Florence's birthday.

There are several monuments, plaques, and museums around the world in Florence's honor. In England, there are monuments in London and St. Margaret's Church, where she is buried. In Italy, there are plaques commemorating Florence's birthplace. In Turkey, there is a museum established in part of the Barracks Hospital used by Florence during the Crimean War.

Florence revolutionized the nursing profession.

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©  2009 D. K. Malowney