top of page

Florence Nightingale: The Pioneer of Modern Nursing

When many people think of medicine and health, what immediately comes to mind are medical specialties such as pediatrics, internal medicine, radiology, cardiology, gastroenterology, oncology, and more. Nursing is another aspect of medicine that is just as important and necessary since proper patient care requires the teamwork of multiple members of the healthcare team. Florence Nightingale is a person who comes to mind when talking about nursing, especially contributing to what nursing is in current times. She was born on May 12th, 1820 in Florence, Italy to upper-class parents. From a young age, Nightingale was helping poor and sick people in the village near her family’s estate, leading her to believe that nursing was her purpose. Due to her parents’ upstanding position in society and the expectations of the Victorian Era, Nightingale was expected to marry a wealthy man approved by her parents; they did not like that she was interested in nursing, which was considered a lab-intensive job done by the lower classes. However, she was committed to pursuing nursing, leading to her enrolling as a nursing student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserworth, Germany in 1844. In the early 1850s, Nightingale did a nursing job at a hospital in Middlesex, London for sick governesses and was promoted to superintendent after impressing her employer. There was a cholera outbreak soon after and she was able to improve hygiene conditions in the hospital, reducing the death rate there.

Shortly after, the Crimean War in 1853 occurred, and there was a lack of female nurses at the hospitals in Crimea since previous female nurses had negative reputations. The conditions were getting worse in England with the unsanitary conditions and lack of staff in hospitals, resulting in the Secretary of War Sidney Herbert sending a letter to Nightingale to gather groups of nurses to treat the sick and wounded soldiers in Crimea. The conditions in Scutari, the British base hospital in Constantinople, were horrifying. There were soldiers laying in their excrement on stretchers, rodents and bugs scuttling around, a short supply of bandages, soap, and unclean water causing soldiers to die from typhoid and cholera rather than the injuries retained from battle. In response, Nightingale was able to obtain many scrub brushes, instructing all the nurses to clean up as much of the rooms from top to bottom. She was nicknamed “Lady with the Lamp '' and the “Angel of Crimea” for working nonstop to ensure the soldiers would live and was able to cut the death rate to two-thirds of what it was. Nightingale added patient services such as the “invalid’s kitchen” for people with dietary restrictions, a laundry for clean clothes, a classroom and library for patients for entertainment. Based on her experiences here, she wrote Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army, which was an 830-page report on how military hospitals should improve.

After Queen Victoria gave Nightingale recognition, Nightingale contributed to producing the Nightingale Rose Diagram, which set new standards of sanitation in the army. These new standards included ensuring the hospitals themselves were devoid of rats and bugs, had enough basic medical supplies, had sterile practices, provided clean water and materials for patients, and more. Nightingale received money from her work during the Crimean War, and thereafter donated to the establishment of St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for nurses. She influenced many women from the upper class to also enroll and train to be a nurse as she showed how nursing was an honorable career. In 1859, she published Notes on Hospitals, which talked about methods to run civilian-based hospitals. During the Civil War, Nightingale was contacted many times about how to manage field hospitals effectively. She was consulted and served as an authority to address sanitation issues in India for the military and citizens. She was given much recognition during her entire life for her contributions to nursing, hospital establishment, sanitation practices, and many more.

Thank you,

Siri Nikku





bottom of page