The World’s Famous Nurse – Florence Nightingale

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Florence Nightingale, born on May 12, 1820, in  Italy, was a founder of modern nursing. She was a brave, honest, strong and persistent woman who once said:

“The greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

Education

Florence was named after the city of her birth, Florence in Italy. She was a very precocious and intelligent girl. Her father was mostly interested in her education. He introduced her to history, philosophy, and literature. The young lady was excellent in mathematics and had a good grip on languages. She was able to read and write in French, German, Italian, Greek, and Latin. She always preferred reading the great philosophers and engaging in serious political and social discourse with her father.

It was said that when she was 16 years old she experienced one of several “calls from God.” She felt that nursing would be a suitable route to serve both God and humankind. However, her family didn’t allow her to take nurse’s training saying it was an inappropriate activity for a woman of her stature.

Crimean War (1853-1856)

The Crimean War was a military conflict in which the Russian Empire was fighting against an alliance of France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia. Florence was the central figure sending the reports back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded. She and the nurses she trained (38 women) volunteered, including her aunt Mai Smith and 15 Catholic nuns. They were sent to the Ottoman Empire, where they witnessed poor care for wounded soldiers by overworked medical staff and indifferent officials. There were not enough medicines, hygiene was being neglected, and mass fatal infections were common.

In the Dictionary of National Biography, Stephen Paget said that Nightingale reduced the death rate from 42% to 2%, and that was a kind of a miracle! She was making improvements in hygiene herself by calling for the Sanitary Commission. After Nightingale’s reports, the British Government commissioned Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design a prefabricated hospital that could be built in England and shipped to the Dardanelles. And that is how the first official onsite hospitals were made thus lowering the death rate to 1/10th. During her stay at the battlefield, about 4,000 soldiers died from battle wounds. Approximately 40,000 soldiers died from illnesses such as typhus, typhoid, cholera, and dysentery. Nightingale believed that most of the soldiers at the hospital were killed by poor living conditions, but this was not proven. Nonetheless, the commission fixed the sewers and improved ventilation thus reducing the death rates.

The Lady With The Lamp

This was Nightingale’s nickname from the Crimean War. She took hundreds of scrub brushes and, together with patients, was cleaning the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling. She was spending every waking minute taking care of the soldiers. At night she was walking through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while checking on them. The soldiers called her “the Lady with the Lamp.” Other people simply said: “She is the Angel of the Crimea.” The Times reported:
She is a “ministering angel” without any exaggeration in these hospitals. And as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.

The First School For Nurses

Florence Nightingale remained at the battlefield for a year and a half. She left after the Crimean conflict was resolved, and returned to England. Queen Victoria had rewarded her with an engraved brooch that came to be known as the “Nightingale Jewel”. She also received a prize of $250,000 from the British government.

But, this is not the end of Nightingale’s noble deeds. She used her money to her further cause. In 1860, she founded the Nightingale Training School for Nurses within the establishment of St. Thomas’ Hospital.

Afterward, Nightingale became a figure of public admiration and many poems and plays were dedicated to her. Young women wanted to be like her and started enrolling at the training school. Thanks to Nightingale, nursing became an honorable vocation.

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