Nursing is the nation’s largest healthcare profession. Individuals who have chosen the nursing career path are respected for their medical knowledge, compassion, and contributions to society.
However, nursing has not always been an honorable job. The profession has evolved into its current form through the efforts of courageous nursing pioneers.
Today, GIFTED celebrates Florence Nightingale, a nursing trailblazer considered by many to be the founder of modern nursing. Read on to learn about her incredible journey and dedication to helping those in need.
Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy. Originally from Great Britain, her parents were vacationing in Western Europe at the time of her birth.
Florence was raised in a wealthy family and was expected to marry at a young age. Florence resisted this path, claiming she had received a message from God requesting that she dedicate her life to helping the less fortunate. Her rebellion against expectations caused conflict and disappointment within her family, but Florence persisted.
Over the next decade, she trained to become a nurse in Germany and France. By the 1850s, Florence had developed a reputation in the nursing community and returned to England in 1853 to manage a women’s hospital in London.
1853 was also the beginning of the Crimean War, an event that would change Florence’s and the course of nursing history.
The Crimean War
Just as Nightingale began to settle into her new role as a hospital manager, a major military conflict erupted in Eastern Europe.
The Crimean War began in late 1853 as the result of a religious and territorial dispute between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. Britain was drawn into the conflict a year later due to its alliance with the Ottomans.
Britain was unprepared for the large increase in sick and injured people caused by the war, and Nightingale was asked to manage a group of nurses in a British camp near Constantinople.
The Lady with the Lamp
Florence and her team of 38 nurses did not receive a warm welcome when they arrived. The camp’s male doctors were resistant to working with females, which created a tense and difficult clinical environment.
As the war progressed, conditions in the camp worsened. Medical supply shortages and unsanitary conditions caused death rates in the hospital to reach 40 percent. Once the situation became dire, British doctors recognized the need for Florence and her team. Then, they got to work.
The nurses delivered supplies, provided individual care, and significantly improved sanitation. Florence became known for checking on soldiers at night, carrying a lamp as her source of light. This is how she received her famous nickname, “the Lady with the Lamp.”
Nightingale and her team completely changed the hospital, saving lives in the process. Their efforts brought the death rate from 40 percent to 2 percent in just a few months.
Leading the Way
When she returned from the war, Florence began transforming hospitals across Great Britain. She gained national recognition for her work.
In 1856, she presented a record of her experiences to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. This document caused the Queen and Prince to create a government-funded initiative to improve the medical practices and health of the British Army.
Florence also demonstrated an incredible knack for reading data. She became the first woman elected to the Royal Statistical Society, and later created one of the first versions of the pie chart.
During her life, Nightingale made a tremendous impact on nursing, clinical standards of care, and female equality. She upheld her commitment to nursing until her death in 1910, at the age of 90.
Florence’s legacy lives on today.
Since 1912, the International Committee of the Red Cross has given the Florence Nightingale Medal to exceptional nurses in her honor. International Nurses Day is celebrated on May 12, Nightingale’s birthday. Most importantly, nurses everywhere still strive to live up to her standards of excellence and compassion.
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“Florence Nightingale.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019. November 20, 2019.
“Florence Nightingale.” National Women’s History Museum. National Women’s History Museum, 2019. November 22, 2019.