Florence Nightingale

Born in 1820, Florence Nightingale was a renowned English nurse who became instrumental in the development of the professional nursing profession. Her contributions to the field of nursing included the establishment of a nursing school to train nurses as well as her writings and work as a statistician. Nightingale’s achievements have also been viewed as important to women’s movements both in England and abroad.

Nightingale was named for the Italian city of Florence where she born to a wealthy English family. Her father inherited an estate in Derbyshire, but her family had various homes and Nightingale grew up in upper-class affluence. Her decision as a teen to enter the nursing field was, therefore, extremely distressing to her family who regarded such pursuits as unfitting to a woman of her status and rank in society. Nevertheless, Nightingale pursued her studies and spent time traveling to such places as Greece and Egypt. Her travel writings attest to her belief that she was called to the nursing field by God.

Nightingale eventually received consent from her father to pursue her chosen career. He supported her in so much that he enabled her to take the position of Superintendent of the Institute for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in the Upper Harley Street of London. She held this position for little more than a year before she consented to serve in Crimea during the Crimean War.

Nightingale arrived in the Crimea in 1854. She found horrendous conditions in the facilities where sick and wounded soldiers were being cared for by overworked medical staffs. Hygiene was poor and infections ran rampant. Later in her career, Nightingale would remember the poor sanitary conditions of the camp hospitals and suggest many improvements incorporating them into her training of nurses. Nightingale rose to prominence for her work in the Crimea and was recognized officially for her contributions.

Nightingale received public funds to set up her nursing training school which she began at St. Thomas’ Hospital. Today her school, named for her, is part of King’s College London. Nightingale spent the rest of her life as an advocate of the nursing profession and trained many nurses. Foreign nurses who trained under her, like the American Linda Richards, went on to promote training programs for nurses in their native countries. In 1883 Queen Victoria of England awarded Nightingale the Royal Red Cross. In 1907 she received the Order of Merit, the first ever awarded to a woman.

Nightingale devoted her life to the nursing profession. She died at the age of ninety in 1910. She is credited as the founder of the modern nursing field. Various monuments exist in London to mark her achievements and many hospitals as well as nursing schools are named for her worldwide.