Florence Nightingale

Founder of Modern Nursing

Florence Nightingale, the name that stands for Modern Nursing, was an English nurse, statistician, medical reformer.

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She gave nursing a favourable reputation.

Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820 in a wealthy British family in Florence, Italy.

Her father was William Edward Nightingale and mother Mary née Evans.

As a young woman, Nightingale was described as attractive, slender and graceful.

Despite the intense opposition from her family and social restrictions in those days she decided to become a nurse.

Her name first came into limelight during the Crimean War.

Crimean war was fought by an alliance of Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia against Russia. . It broke out in October 1853 and ended in February 1856.

Nightingale served as a manager and trainer of nurses in this war.

She served wounded soldiers at nights and gained the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp”. She reduced the death rate from 42% to 2%, by making improvements in hygiene by implementing handwashing and other sanitary practices in the war hospital.

In her entire life, she believed that ‘God called and asked her to do good for him alone without reputation.

Florence Nightingale’s voice was saved and preserved in the British Library Sound Archive.

The recording, made in aid of the Light Brigade Relief Fund in 1890 and available to hear online, says:

“When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore.” – (Florence Nightingale).

Nightingale established the first professional nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London with her own fund of £45,000 on 9 July 1860. Now it’s called the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, and is part of King’s College, London.

She also campaigned and raised funds for the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital in Aylesbury near her sister’s home, Claydon House. (Older sister – Frances Parthenope)

Nightingale wrote Notes on Nursing in 1859 which has an inevitable place in history of nursing.

The book served as the cornerstone of the curriculum at the Nightingale School and other nursing schools. Nightingale’s work served as an inspiration for nurses in the American Civil War.

“America’s first trained nurse” – Linda Richards was mentored by Nightingale in 1870. Linda Richards went on to become a nursing pioneer in the US and Japan.

By 1882, several Nightingale nurses had become matrons at several leading hospitals.

In 1883, Nightingale became the first recipient of the Royal Red Cross.

In 1904, she was appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John.

In 1907, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit.

In the following year she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London.

(The Freedom of the City of London is a recognition awarded to people who have achieved success, recognition or celebrity in their chosen field) Nightingale was very good at mathematics and became a pioneer in the visual presentation of information and statistical graphics.

She used methods such as the pie chart to illustrate seasonal sources of patient mortality which was a novel method at that time. She called such diagrams a ‘coxcomb’. Her pie chart now known as the polar area diagram or nightingale rose diagram.

In 1859, Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.

In 1874, she became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.

Her attention turned to the health of the British army in India and she demonstrated that bad drainage, contaminated water, overcrowding and poor ventilation were causing the high death rate.

Nightingale made a statistical study of sanitation in Indian rural life.

She was instrumental for the establishment of a Royal sanitary Commission in India.

The Royal Sanitary Commission of 1868– 1869 presented Nightingale with an opportunity to press for compulsory sanitation in private houses.

With her assistance and guidance, the Public Health Acts of 1874 and 1875 were enacted.

The Nightingale Pledge is created in 1893 which nurses recite at the end of their training. The pledge is a statement of the ethics and principles of the nursing profession.

From 1857 onwards, Nightingale was intermittently bedridden and suffered from depression.

Florence Nightingale died peacefully in her sleep on 13 August 1910, at the age of 90.

Her birthday is now celebrated as International CFS Awareness Day. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) International Awareness Day)

A memorial monument to Nightingale was created in 1913 in Florence, Italy.

In 1912, the International Committee of the Red Cross instituted the Florence Nightingale Medal for outstanding service in nursing, which is awarded every two years. It is the highest international distinction for nursing professionals.

Since 1965, International Nurses Day has been celebrated on her birthday (12 May) each year.

1973 onwards the President of India honors dedicated nursing professionals with the “National Florence Nightingale Award” every year on International Nurses Day.

Four hospitals in Istanbul are named after Nightingale belonging to the Turkish Cardiology Foundation.

Florence Nightingale Hospital in Şişli (the biggest private hospital in Turkey),

Metropolitan Florence Nightingale Hospital in Gayrettepe,

European Florence Nightingale Hospital in Mecidiyeköy, and

Kızıltoprak Florence Nightingale Hospital in Kadiköy. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of temporary NHS (National Health Service) Nightingale Hospitals were set up for patients needing critical care. The first was housed in the ExCeL London.

The first biography of Nightingale was published in England in 1855.

Several museums are there on her name such as The Florence Nightingale Museum at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, a museum at her sister’s family home – Claydon House run by the National Trust, the Malvern Museum, and Nightingale Museum in Istanbul, etc.

Several Theatrical plays, films and television documentaries and shows have been made on her life such as ‘Lady with Lamp’, ‘Florence Nightingale’, ‘The White Angel’, etc.

Florence Nightingale’s image appeared on the reverse of £10 issued by the Bank of England from 1975 until 1994.

In 2002, Nightingale was ranked number 52 in the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote.

In 2006, the Japanese public ranked Nightingale number 17 in The Top 100 Historical Persons in Japan.

Several churches in the Anglican Communion commemorate Nightingale with a feast day on their liturgical calendars.

The US Navy ship the USS Florence Nightingale (AP-70) was commissioned in 1942.

The US Air Force operated a fleet of “Nightingale” aeromedical evacuation aircraft, from 1968 to 2005.

In 1981, the asteroid 3122 Florence was named after her.

A Dutch KLM McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 was also named in her honour.

Nightingale has appeared on international postage stamps, including, the UK, Alderney, Australia, Belgium, Dominica, Hungary and Germany showing the Florence Nightingale medal awarded by the International Red Cross.

We on behalf of MAM Labs pay tributes to Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing.

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