Heroes of the Faith: Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing.

She was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy to an upper-class British family. She was moved after the place of her birth, before her family returned to England the following year.

In 1837, she underwent the first of several experiences which she believed were calls from God. The first was to devote her life to the service of others.

In 1844, she announced her decision to enter the field of nursing, to the opposition of her family. She worked hard to educated herself to the art and science of nursing.

Painting of Florence Nightingale by Augustus Egg

She wrote in her diary, while traveling to Cairo in the late 1840s “God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.”

From 1853-1854, she served as superintendent at the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Upper Harley Street, London.

Her greatest contribution came during the Crimean War when she discovered the poor care of the wounded soldiers and the overworked medical staff who struggled with short supplies. She sent a plea to The Times and British Government for better conditions and supplies.

During this time, she gained the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp”. This came from an article in The Times which read “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.”

After the Crimea War ended, she funded the Nightingale Fund to establish training for nurses. There was an outpouring of generation donations as she detailed the conditions she found.

Florence Nightingale

She set up the Nightingale Training School and in 1859 wrote Notes on Nursing, which became the cornerstone for nursing curriculum. In the 1974, the introduction by Joan Quixley told of the importance ” “The book was the first of its kind ever to be written. It appeared at a time when the simple rules of health were only beginning to be known, when its topics were of vital importance not only for the well-being and recovery of patients, when hospitals were riddled with infection, when nurses were still mainly regarded as ignorant, uneducated persons. The book has, inevitably, its place in the history of nursing, for it was written by the founder of modern nursing”.

From 1857 on she was often bedridden and suffered from depression.

In the 1870s, she mentored Linda Richards who became “America’s first trained nursed” and returned to her country to establish high-quality nursing schools.

She received numerous awards including the first Royal Red Cross {1883}, Lady of Grace of the Order of St. John {1904}; first woman for Order of Merit {1907} and Honorary Freedom of the City of London.

She died on August 13, 1910 at the age of ninety at her London home. She is buried at St Margaret’s Church in East Wellow, Hampshire.

Her answer to the call on her life, changed the world of nursing and the health profession.

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