Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Lamp


Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, was born in 1820, to a wealthy family who expected her to make a good marriage and live a conventional upper-class woman’s life. Yet, she had another plan that ended up into a long-lasting celebrated legacy.

Nightingale developed an interest in nursing, and despite her parents’ denial, began visiting hospitals and medical institutes in 1844. Her desire to have a career in medicine was reinforced when she met the first American female physician, Elizabeth Blackwell, during the latter’s visit to London. Blackwell encouraged her to keep trying.

Having her parents relenting to her restless passion for nursing in 1851, Florence had a three-month nursing training in Germany. This qualified her to become superintendent of a hospital for gentlewomen in London, in 1853. The following year, the Crimean War erupted and newspapers reported a desperate lack of proper medical facilities for wounded British soldiers.

In 1854, she led a team of 38 women to take over the management of the Barrack Hospital. Nightingale found conditions filthy, supplies inadequate and overcrowding severe. She bought equipment with funds provided by the London Times and enlisted soldiers’ wives to assist with the laundry. Most important, she established standards of care, setting bathing, clean clothing and dressings, and adequate food as basic necessities.

She also paid attention to psychological needs through assistance in writing letters to relatives and through providing educational and recreational activities. Nightingale herself wandered the wards at night to provide support to the patients, hence earning the title “Lady with the Lamp”. Her accomplishments reportedly reduced the mortality rate among soldiers to about 2%.

In 1860, she established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in London. Once the nurses were trained, they were sent to hospitals all over Britain, where they introduced the ideas they had learned, and established nursing training on the Nightingale model. A few years later, she opened the Women Medical College with the aid of her friend Dr. Blackwell.

Nightingale’s theories, published in Notes on Nursing (1860), were hugely influential and her concerns for sanitation, military health, and hospital planning established practices that are still in existence today. Nightingale received a number of prestigious merits and awards from different countries for her notable contributions and passed away in 1910.

Banner image: Copyright © Solent NHS 2021

**The original article is published in the SCIplanet, Spring 2014 issue.


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