Florence Nightingale was a devoted nurse who is known for her tremendous contributions to British health care. Other than her achievements as a nurse, Nightingale was also a writer and an excellent statistician.
Florence Nightingale was born on the 12th of May, 1820 in Florence, Italy. Her father, William Nightingale, was a rich landowner who was actively involved in anti-slavery activities. Nightingale and her sister, Parthenope, grew up in a country home in Lea Hurst, Derbyshire. Her father acquired a new property in Hampshire when she was five years old, and the Derbyshire home became the family’s summer retreat. The two sisters were initially educated by governesses, but soon, their father decided to tutor them himself. Nightingale was a bright child who enjoyed learning from her father, and she developed considerable knowledge in history, foreign languages, philosophy, mathematics, and politics.
When Nightingale reached the age of 17, she received a calling from God, but she could not specify the task that she was called to perform. At that time, her mother wanted to find her a husband, but she rejected all the suitors. When she was 25 years of age, Nightingale told her parents that she wanted to pursue a career in nursing. Her parents were not pleased with her ambition, as nursing was considered a profession of the working class at that time.
In 1849, Nightingale traveled around Europe and Egypt with Charles and Selina Bracebridge, who were friends of the family. During the tour, she had the opportunity to study the operational systems of several hospitals in different countries. One year later, she decided to study nursing at the Institute of St. Vincent de Paul, which was located in Alexandria, Egypt. Then, she paid a visit to Pastor Theodor Fliedner in a hospital in Kaiserswerth, Germany. In 1851, she traveled to Kaiserswerth again to take up a 3-month nursing course at the Institute for Protestant Deaconesses. When Nightingale returned to England, she became the superintendent of a women’s hospital in London.
The Crimean War broke out in 1854, and thousands of British soldiers were afflicted with malaria and cholera in Turkey. Nightingale received a letter from the British Secretary for War, Sidney Herbert, who wanted her to provide nursing services in the military hospital in Turkey. Shortly after she received the letter, she gathered a team of 38 nurses and made her way to Scutari, Turkey. Upon arrival, she found that the military hospital had very low hygiene standards, and this contributed to the increasing mortality rate of the soldiers. Nightingale used her influence with a newspaper to reveal the deplorable conditions in the military hospital to the British public, and as a result, she was given the authority to reorganize the hospital. After she improved conditions in the hospital, there was a dramatic decrease in the death rate of soldiers.
Nightingale returned to London in 1856, and she brought with her statistical data that showed the mortality rates of soldiers at war. She made a case to convince the government of the importance of improving sanitation in barrack hospitals, and news of her campaign reached Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Lord Palmerston. As a result, the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army was set up to investigate the conditions in military hospitals. Later on, Nightingale was elected into the Royal Statistical Society because of her great contributions to hospital and military statistics.
In the year 1860, the Nightingale Training School for Nurses was set up in London’s St Thomas Hospital, with a total of 10 students. The Nightingale Fund, which raised about £50,000 since the time of the Crimean War, was used to finance the establishment of the school. Nightingale set two basic principles for the student nurses to follow, and these principles stressed the importance of proper practical training as well as morality and discipline. She also wrote two books, Notes on Hospital and Notes on Nursing, to provide guidance for nurses.
Through her commitment to her profession, Nightingale made nursing an honorable profession for women. She was also considered an important figure in the women’s rights movement. In one of her books, Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truths, she argued that women should not be discouraged from pursuing the careers of their choice. In her old age, Nightingale suffered from serious health problems, and she became blind in 1895. She lived the last 15 years of her life as a total invalid, and she passed away on the 13th of August, 1910.