Florence Nightingale is regarded to be the pioneer in the study/documentation of the best nursing practices, and later on, establishing the first secular nursing school that heralded a whole new career of nursing which improved patient care drastically.
These words may not mean much to us as we take health care for granted today (if we can afford it). But there was a time during the middle of nineteenth century when wars were commonplace and health care of wounded soldiers left to untrained/unprofessional hands. That was when an angel called Florence Nightingale was attempting to create order among the chaos, then called medical practice.
Born into an affluent family, Florence Nightingale felt that nursing was her calling. Women in those times were not provided much formal education but her father believed that education was very important and tutored her on mathematics and statistics, among other subjects.
Her desire to become a nurse to treat wounded soldiers was more than just social service. Back then, nursing was unheard of and women in nursing was an impossibility. Braving the opposition from family and society, she started to learn the nursing practices by herself. She traveled extensively in order to serve and chose not to get married as she felt that marriage could interfere in her professional and spiritual calling of attending to the injured and uncared.
Florence Nightingale’s services rose to prominence during the Crimean war. She left with a group of 38 women volunteer nurses after the news of large number of unattended casualties were reported in London. Her life-long friend and politician Sidney Herbert was instrumental in facilitating Nightingale’s work in Crimea.
Florence Nightingale is said to have reduced the death rate of soldiers from 42% to 2% due to her health-care practices and improvements brought about in sanitary conditions and hygiene. Among other things, she was instrumental in bringing a sanitary commission that flushed out blocked sewers and improved ventilation in the hospital.
Later on, she found out that ten times more soldiers died due to cholera, dysentery, typhoid and other such infections than wounds sustained in the war. This convinced her that the improvements in personal hygiene/sanitary conditions were the main reason for the reduction in the number of deaths and she worked tirelessly for improving the living conditions of British soldiers elsewhere.
While still in Crimea, she was known as ‘The lady with the lamp’ as it was routine for her to check and attend to injured soldiers in the nights, even after all the medical fraternity had returned to their camps. When someone serves people without expecting anything in return, people are known to give generously. While she was still at work in the Ottoman empire, her work became famous at home and people donated generously to a fund in her name, which enabled her to establish a nursing school later on.
Her institution was the first secular nursing school solely aimed at developing the profession of nursing and creating more trained nurses. She then wrote a book called ‘Notes on Nursing’ that served as a valuable reference material for nursing school students and also became popular among the general public who were attending to sick people at home.
In the 1890′s, she mentored a person called Linda Richards who then became famous as America’s first trained nurse and went on to establish many nursing schools in the US and Japan. Florence Nightingale was the first woman in England to be awarded the Order of Merit, in recognition of her selfless service.
Perhaps her most important contribution to the society was her introduction of a formal training system and curriculum for nurses, which in-turn fostered the creation of the organized health-care system. There are a very few people who go beyond their comfort zones to relentlessly strive and work for improving the living conditions of others. She was a diamond among all such gems.
Reference: Wikipedia article on Florence Nightingale. May 12, her birth anniversary, is celebrated as the International Nurses Day.