Florence Nightingale, OM, RRC (pronounced /ˈflɒrəns ˈnaɪtɪŋɡeɪl/, historically [ˈflɒɾəns]; 12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. A Christian universalist, Nightingale believed that God had called her to be a nurse. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night.
Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment, in 1860, of her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world. The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.
While she was in the Crimea, on 29 November 1855, a public meeting to give recognition to Florence Nightingale for her work in the war led to the establishment of the Nightingale Fund for the training of nurses. There was an outpouring of generous donations. Sidney Herbert served as honorary secretary of the fund, and the Duke of Cambridge was chairman. Nightingale was considered a pioneer in the concept of medical tourism as well, on the basis of her letters from 1856 in which she wrote of spas in Turkey, detailing the health conditions, physical descriptions, dietary information, and other vitally important details of patients whom she directed there (where treatment was significantly less expensive than in Switzerland). It may be assumed she was directing patients of meagre means to affordable treatment.
By 1859 Nightingale had £45,000 at her disposal from the Nightingale Fund to set up the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas' Hospital on 9 July 1860. (It is now called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery and is part of King's London.) The first trained Nightingale nurses began work on 16 May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary. She also campaigned and raised funds for the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury, near her family home.
Nightingale wrote Notes on Nursing, which was published in 1859, a slim 136-page book that served as the cornerstone of the curriculum at the Nightingale School and other nursing schools established, though it was written specifically for the education of those nursing at home. Nightingale wrote "Every day sanitary knowledge, or the knowledge of nursing, or in other words, of how to put the constitution in such a state as that it will have no disease, or that it can recover from disease, takes a higher place. It is recognised as the knowledge which every one ought to have-distinct from medical knowledge, which only a profession can have".
Notes on Nursing also sold well to the general reading public and is considered a classic introduction to nursing. Nightingale spent the rest of her life promoting the establishment and development of the nursing profession and organizing it into its modern form. In the introduction to the 1974 edition, Joan Quixley of the Nightingale School of Nursing wrote: "The book was the first of its kind ever to be written. It appeared at a time when the simple rules of health were only beginning to be known, when its topics were of vital importance not only for the well-being and recovery of patients, when hospitals were riddled with infection, when nurses were still mainly regarded as ignorant, uneducated persons. The book has, inevitably, its place in the history of nursing, for it was written by the founder of modern nursing".
Nightingale was an advocate for the improvement of care and conditions in the military and civilian hospitals in Britain. Among her popular books are Notes on Hospitals, which deals with the correlation of sanitary techniques to medical facilities; Notes on Nursing, which was the most valued nursing textbook of the day; Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army.
As Mark Bostridge has recently demonstrated, one of Nightingale's signal achievements was the introduction of trained nurses into the workhouse system in England and Ireland from the 1860s onwards. This meant that sick paupers were no longer being cared for by other, able-bodied paupers, but by properly trained nursing staff. This innovation may be said to herald the establishment of the National Health Service in Britain, forty years after Nightingale's death.
It is commonly stated that Nightingale "went to her grave denying the germ theory of infection". Mark Bostridge in his recent biography disagrees with this, saying that she was opposed to a precursor of germ theory known as "contagionism" which held that diseases could only be transmitted by touch. Before the experiments of the mid-1860s by Pasteur and Lister, hardly anyone took germ theory seriously and even afterwards many medical practitioners were unconvinced. Bostridge points out that in the early 1880s Nightingale wrote an article for a textbook in which she advocated strict precautions designed, she said, to kill germs. Nightingale's work served as an inspiration for nurses in the American Civil War. The Union government approached her for advice in organizing field medicine. Although her ideas met official resistance, they inspired the volunteer body of the United States Sanitary Commission.
In the 1870s, Nightingale mentored Linda Richards, "America's first trained nurse", and enabled her to return to the USA with adequate training and knowledge to establish high-quality nursing schools. Linda Richards went on to become a great nursing pioneer in the USA and Japan.
By 1882, Nightingale nurses had a growing and influential presence in the embryonic nursing profession. Some had become matrons at several leading hospitals, including, in London, St Mary's Hospital, Westminster Hospital, St Marylebone Workhouse Infirmary and the Hospital for Incurables at Putney; and throughout Britain, e.g., Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley; Edinburgh Royal Infirmary; Cumberland Infirmary and Liverpool Royal Infirmary, as well as at Sydney Hospital in New South Wales, Australia.
In 1883, Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria. In 1907, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. In 1908, she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London. Her birthday is now celebrated as International CFS Awareness Day.
From 1857 onwards, Nightingale was intermittently bedridden and suffered from depression. A recent biography cites brucellosis and associated spondylitis as the cause. An alternative explanation for her depression is based on her discovery after the war that she had been mistaken about the reasons for the high death rate. There is, however, no documentary evidence to support this theory which remains, therefore, largely supposition. Most authorities today accept that Nightingale suffered from a particularly extreme form of brucellosis. the effects of which only began to lift in the early 1880s. Despite her symptoms, she remained phenomenally productive in social reform. During her bedridden years, she also did pioneering work in the field of hospital planning, and her work propagated quickly across Britain and the world.
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