Life and History of Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale – Her Nursing History:

Florence Nightingale was the legend, who had kick started the nursing profession, the legend who devoted her life caring for the people those were sick, diseased or wounded. One of her greatest achievement was to raise nursing as profession to the level of a respectable profession for women. She was born in Italy on 12 May 1820, she was named Florence after the city where she was born of her parents, William Edward and Frances Nightingale, she had an elder sister Parthenope.

Childhood Days:

Florence and her sister Parthenope were educated at home by their father, who got educated at the Cambridge University. Florence was an academic child, while Parthenope excelled at painting and needlework. Florence grew up to be a lively and attractive young woman, admired in the family’s social circle and she was expected to make a good marriage, but Florence had other concerns, that bothered the family.

Florence developed an interest in the social questions of the day, made visits to the homes of the sick in the local villages, began to investigate hospitals and nursing. Her parents refused to allow her to become a nurse as in the mid-nineteenth century it was not considered a suitable profession for a well-educated woman. While the family conflicts over Florence’s future remained unresolved, Florence Nightingale went to Kaiserswerth in Germany and undertook three months nursing training, which enabled her to take a vacancy as Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during illness at London in 1853.

The Turning Point:

During the Crimean war in1854, when Britain, France and Turkey declared war on Russia and defeated the Russians in the battle, but they suffered heavy casualties and the media criticized the British medical facilities for the wounded. In response, to these reports Nightingale was appointed to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. Though initially the doctors did not want the nurses there and did not ask for their help, but as fresh casualties arrived from the battle zone the nurses were fully stretched and their service was utilized to the limits.

Florence was called the ‘Lady-in-Chief’, she wrote home on behalf of the soldiers. She acted as a banker, sending the soldier’s wages home to their families, and introduced reading rooms to the hospital. In return she gained the undying respect of the British soldiers. The introduction of female nurses to the military hospitals was an outstanding success, and to show the nation’s gratitude for Florence Nightingale’s hard work a public subscription was organized in November 1855. The money collected was to enable Florence Nightingale to continue her reform of nursing in the civil hospitals of Britain.

When Florence Nightingale returned from the Crimean War, she hid herself away from the public’s attention. Later that year in London, she joined the campaign for a Royal Commission to investigate the health of the British Army and she continued as a driving force behind the scenes.

Later for her great contribution to British Army statistics and comparative hospital statistics in 1860, Florence Nightingale became the first woman to be elected a fellow of the Statistical Society. In 1865 she settled at 10 South Street, Mayfair, in the West End of London, where she lived there until her death.

Nightingale Training School for Nurses:

Florence Nightingale’s greatest achievement was to raise nursing to the level of a respectable profession for women. In 1860, with the public subscriptions of the Nightingale Fund, she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital. The probationer nurses received a year’s training, which included some lectures but was mainly practical ward work under the supervision of the ward sister. “Miss Nightingale”, as she was always called by the nurses, scrutinized the probationers’ ward diaries and reports.

From 1872 Florence Nightingale devoted closer attention to the organization of the School and almost annually for the next thirty years she wrote an open letter to the nurses and probationers giving advice and encouragement. On completion of training Florence Nightingale gave the nurses books and invited them to tea. Once trained the nurses were sent to staff hospitals in Britain and abroad and to established nursing training schools on the Nightingale model. In 1860 her best known work, Notes on Nursing, was published. It laid down the principles of nursing: careful observation and sensitivity to the patient’s needs. Notes on Nursing has been translated into eleven foreign languages and is still in print today.

Old Age:

Although Florence Nightingale was bedridden for many years, she campaigned tirelessly to improve health standards, publishing 200 books, reports and pamphlets. In recognition of her hard work Queen Victoria awarded Miss Nightingale the Royal Red Cross in 1883. In her old age she received many honours, including the Order of Merit (1907), becoming the first woman to receive it. Florence Nightingale died at home at the age of 90 on 13 August 1910 and, according to her wishes, she was buried at St Margaret’s, East Wellow, near her parent’s home, Embley Park in Hampshire, London. Florence Nightingale’s farsighted reforms have influenced the nature of modern health care and her writings continue to be a resource for nurses, health managers and planners.

The Nurses across the world will admire her highness Florence Nightingale for her exemplary work and devotion that had changed lives of many ordinary men and women who have accepted Nursing as profession, and are the height of glory and achievement, Nurses have now become an unavoidable part of the healthcare system across the world.

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