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Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Lamp

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Hello everyone! I'm Tina and this is Women Weekly, where I post about one wonderful woman in the STEM field every Friday. This week I wrote about the founder of professional nursing, famously depicted with a lamp in her hand, doing nightly checkups on her patients – Florence Nightingale.

 

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 in the city she's named after. Her family was very wealthy, and her forward-thinking father, who wanted Florence to be educated, personally tutored her on various subjects. Though she had access to quality education, as a woman she was still expected to marry rich and become a good wife and mother.

Florence's family wasn't delighted when she told them she wanted to become a nurse and forbade her to follow her dream. At the time, nursing was looked down upon as work, not even a profession. Nurses were untrained, usually resorted to it as their last option, and had a reputation for drinking and even prostitution. Florence experienced a calling from God, which urged her to not listen to her family and pursue nursing. She listened and went to Dusseldorf, Germany, to do her training. She spent her life focusing on work, rejecting suitors that she believed would keep her from her true calling. Throughout her life, she suffered from many illnesses and died peacefully at the age of 90.

Her biggest accomplishments came during the Crimean War. A team of nurses with Florence as their head nurse was sent to a military hospital in Scutari (in today's Istanbul). Florence quickly noticed the terrible conditions in which the patients were recovering and she got to work. She urged the British government to help her improve the situation, and as a result, a new hospital was built in Dardanelles. She implemented practices like hand washing and ventilation and encouraged the authorities to clean the sewers. Thanks to her innovations, the death rate of patients dropped from 42% to 2%, clearly demonstrating that the former environment was causing most of the deaths.

With this idea of maintaining better living conditions, she started saving many patients' lives even during peacetime. Florence's work was noticed and The Nightingale Fund was set up in her name, which was later used to fund the first nursing school: Nightingale Training School, now the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery. Florence wrote Notes on Nursing, full of everyday sanitary knowledge, intended for home nurses, but it also found its place in the nursing curriculum.

As if founding the entire profession of nursing wasn't enough, Florence was also a pioneer in statistics. When explaining the need for hygiene and sanitation, either to the government or even to common folk, she used infographics and clear graphs (ie. the polar area chart), making sure that everybody understands even the more complicated information.

Florence Nightingale is the mother of nursing as we know it today. She was born privileged and used her valuable connections to improve the world every chance she could, by educating both future nurses and the common public on practices that we today take for granted.



 

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