Florence Nightingale

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Nightingale, Florence

Florence Nightingale

Born: May 12, 1820
Florence, Italy
Died: August 13, 1910
London, England

English nurse

The English nurse Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing and made outstanding contributions to the knowledge and improvement of public health.

Early years and study

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820; she was named after the city of her birth. Her father, William E. Nightingale, was a wealthy landowner who had inherited an estate in Derbyshire, England. Like many members of the wealthy class, he and Florence's mother, Fanny, dedicated themselves to the pursuit of active social lives. Florence and her sister, Parthenope, were tutored by their father in languages, mathematics, and history. Though Florence was tempted by the idea of a brilliant social life and marriage, she also wanted to achieve independence, importance in some field of activity, and obedience to God through service to society.

In 1844 Nightingale decided that she wanted to work in hospitals. Her family objected strongly to her plan; hospital conditions at that time were known to be terrible, and nurses were untrained and thought to be of questionable morals. Ignoring all resistance, Nightingale managed to visit some hospitals and health facilities. She then received permission from her parents to spend a few months at Kaiserworth, a German training school for nurses and female teachers. In 1853 she became superintendent of the London charity-supported Institution for Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances. This opportunity allowed her to become independent from her family and also to try out new ideas in organizing and managing an institution, conducted in a scientific, nonreligious setting.

War efforts

In October of 1854 Nightingale organized a party of thirty-eight nurses, mostly from different religious orders, for service in the Crimean War (185356), in which Great Britain, France, and Sardinia fought against Russian expansion in Europe. The nurses arrived at Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) in November. Conditions at the British base hospital at Scutari (now Uskudar, Turkey) were awful and grew steadily worse as the number of sick and wounded soldiers rapidly increased. The British army did not have enough medical services and used what it did have poorlya confusing and complicated supply system actually cut off deliveries to the patients. The Barrack Hospital, where Nightingale and her nurses worked and lived, was built on a massive cesspool (an underground area into which liquid waste flows), which poisoned the water and even the building itself. The general attitude was that the common soldier was a drunken brute on whom all comforts would be wasted.

Nightingale saw that her first task was to get the military doctors to accept her and the other nurses. Her determined personality, combined with the continuing arrival of the newly sick and wounded, soon brought this about. She also had a large fund of private moneymuch of it raised by the London Times with which she could obtain badly needed supplies. By the end of 1854, some order had been created and the hospital was cleanernot only through Nightingale's efforts but also through improvements made by a governmental sanitary commission. The death rate among patients fell by two-thirds. But with improvement came new problems, including anger from officials who were found at fault for the poor hospital conditions and rising disputes among the nurses.

Hospital reform efforts back home

Florence Nightingale left Scutari in the summer of 1856, soon after the war ended. By then she was famous among the troops and the public as the "Lady with the Lamp" and the "Nightingale in the East." This popular image is not quite accurate. Although she did some active nursing in the wards, Nightingale's real work lay outside the expression of tenderness and concern. It began with her refusal to respond to public praise and with her use of her influence in high places, including with the queen, to fight for effective reform of the entire system of military hospitals and medical care.

In Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army (1857) Nightingale used the experiences of the war to prove that a new system was necessary. Within five years this effort led to the reconstruction of the administrative structure of the War Office. Nightingale's Notes on Hospitals (1859) detailed the proper arrangements for civilian institutions (places that were not a part of the military). In the next year she presided over the founding of the Nightingale School for the training of nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital in London, England. After 1858 she was recognized as the leading expert on military and civilian sanitation (the removal of water-transported waste) in India. She also believed that irrigation (the supplying of water to an area using artificial methods) was the solution to the problem of famine. In 1907 Nightingale was the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit.

Later years

Nightingale's personality is well documented. She rebelled against the idle, sheltered existence of her family her entire life. She achieved a leading position in a world dominated by men, driving and directing her male coworkers as hard as she did herself. She often complained that women were selfish, and she had no time for the growing women's rights movement. But she also developed an idea of spiritual (relating to or affecting the spirit) motherhood and saw herself as the mother of the men of the British army"my children"whom she had saved. Florence Nightingale never really recovered from the physical strain of the Crimean War. After 1861 she rarely left her home and was confined to her bed much of the time. She died on August 13, 1910, in London, England.

For More Information

Dossey, Barbara Montgomery. Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer. Springhouse, PA: Springhouse Corp., 2000.

Small, Hugh. Florence Nightingale: Avenging Angel. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Vickers, Rebecca. Florence Nightingale. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2000.

Wellman, Sam. Florence Nightingale: Lady with the Lamp. Uhrichsville, OH: Barbour, 1999.

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. Florence Nightingale. New ed. London: Constable, 1996.

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Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

The English nurse Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was the founder of modern nursing and made outstanding contributions to knowledge of public health.

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820, of wealthy parents. Her father was heir to a Derbyshire estate. Her mother, from solid merchant stock, dedicated herself to the pursuit of social pleasure within the circumscribed life then proper for women of high station. Though Florence was tempted by prospects of a brilliant social life and marriage, she had a stronger strain that demanded independence, dominance in some field of activity, and obedience to God by selfless service to society.

In 1844 Nightingale decided to work in hospitals. Her family furiously resisted her plan, on the ostensible ground that nurses were not "ladies" but menial drudges, usually of questionable morals. Nevertheless, she managed to do some private nursing and then to spend a few months at Kaiserworth, a German school and hospital. In 1853 she became superintendent of the London charity-supported Institution for Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances. This opportunity allowed her to achieve effective independence from her family and also to try out novel techniques of institutional organization and management, conducted in a scientific, nonsectarian spirit.

In October 1854 Nightingale organized a party of 38 nurses, mostly from various religious orders, for service in the Crimean War. They arrived at Constantinople in November. Conditions at the British base hospital at Scutari were appalling and grew steadily worse as the flow of sick and wounded soldiers from the Crimea rapidly increased. The medical services of the British army were both insufficient and inefficient: a supply system of infinite and archaic complexity actually cut off deliveries to the patients; the Barrack Hospital, where Nightingale and her nurses were quartered, sat over a massive cesspool which poisoned the water and even the fabric of the building itself. However, the attitude still prevailed that the common soldier was an uncivilized, drunken brute on whom all comforts and refinements would be wasted.

Nightingale saw that her first task was to convert the military doctors to accept her and her nurses. Her discretion and diplomacy, combined with the influx of new sick and wounded, soon brought this about. She also had a large fund of private money, much of it raised by the London Times, with which she could cut through the clogged supply system. By the end of 1854 some order and cleanliness had been created, not only through her efforts but also through the revelations and improvements made by a governmental sanitary commission. The death rate among patients fell by two-thirds. But with improvement came new problems, with the defensiveness and hostility of the officials responsible for conditions now exposed and with the sectarian squabbling among the nurses, which Nightingale called the "Protestant Howl" and the "Roman Catholic Storm."

Florence Nightingale left Scutari in the summer of 1856, soon after the hostilities ended. By now she was idolized by the troops and the public as the "Lady with the Lamp" and the "Nightingale in the East." But this popular image is essentially false. Although she did active nursing in the wards, her real work lay outside the expression of tenderness and compassion. It began with her deliberate refusal to respond to public adulation and with her use of her influence in high places, even to the Queen and Prince Albert, to fight for effective reform of the entire system of military hospitals and medical care. Nightingale planned tactics from behind the scenes. In Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army (1857) she used the experiences of the war as a body of data to prove the necessity of a new system. Within 5 years this effort led to the reconstruction of the administrative structure of the War Office.

Nightingale's Notes on Hospitals (1859) detailed the proper arrangements for civilian institutions. In the next year she presided over the founding of the Nightingale School for the training of nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital in London. After 1858 she was recognized as the leading expert on military and civilian sanitation in India, in which capacity she advocated irrigation as the solution to the problem of famine.

Nightingale's personality is well documented. Her whole life she rebelled against the idle, sheltered existence of her family. She achieved a dominant position in a masculine world, driving and directing her male allies with the same ruthless force she applied to herself. She frequently complained of women's selfishness, and she ironically had no sympathy with the growing feminist movement. But she also developed a conception of spiritual motherhood and saw herself as the mother of the men of the British army— "my children"—whom she had saved.

Florence Nightingale never really recovered from the physical strain of the Crimea. After 1861 she was house-bound and bedridden. She died on Aug. 13, 1910.

Further Reading

There are two substantial standard biographies of Miss Nightingale: Sir Edward Cook, The Life of Florence Nightingale (2 vols., 1913), and Cecil Woodham-Smith, Florence Nightingale (1951), a most effective and satisfying treatment. Other biographies are Irene Cooper Willis, Florence Nightingale: A Biography (1930), and Margaret Goldsmith, Florence Nightingale, The Woman and the Legend (1937). Florence Nightingale is the subject of a famous chapter in Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians (1918); though unduly harsh, it rests on solid insight and has shaped the understanding of her personality. □

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Nightingale, Florence

NIGHTINGALE, FLORENCE

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, 1820. The daughter of upper-class British parents, Nightingale pursued a career in nursing, despite family objections, believing it to be God's will. In 1851 she received her initial training in Kaiserworth at a hospital run by an order of Protestant Deaconesses. Two years later she gained further experience as the superintendent at the Hospital for Invalid Gentlewomen in London, England.

After reading a series of correspondence from the London Times in 1854 on the plight of wounded soldiers fighting in the Crimea, Nightingale asked the British secretary of war to secure her entrance into the military hospitals at Scutari, Turkey. He not only granted her permission but designated her the head of an official delegation of nurses. Nightingale worked for the next two years to improve the sanitary conditions of army hospitals and to reorganize their administration. The Times immortalized her as the "Lady with the Lamp" because she ministered to the soldiers throughout the night.

Upon her return to England, Nightingale conducted an exhaustive study of the health of the British Army and created a plan for reform that she compiled into a five-hundred-page report entitled Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administration of the British Army (1858). In 1859 she published Notes on Hospitals, which was followed in 1860 by Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not. That same year she established a nursing school at St. Thomas's Hospital in London.

Nightingale wanted to make nursing a respectable profession and believed that nurses should be trained in science. She also advocated strict discipline, an attention to cleanliness, and felt that nurses should possess an innate empathy for their patients. Although Nightingale became an invalid following her stay in the Crimea, she remained an influential leader in public health policies related to hospital administration until her death on August 13, 1910.

Jennifer Koslow

(see also: History of Public Health; Leadership; Nurse )

Bibliography

Baly, M. E. (1986). Florence Nightingale and the Nursing Legacy. London: Croom Helm.

Bullough, V.; Bullough, B.; and Stanton, M. P., eds. (1990). Florence Nightingale and Her Era: A Collection of New Scholarship. New York: Garland.

Small, H. (1948). Florence Nightingale: Avenging Angel. London: Constable.

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Nightingale, Florence

Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910). Nursing reformer. Named after the city of her birth, liberally educated, she chafed at the restricted opportunities for women of her station but eventually found purpose in relieving suffering. She learned nursing skills from the deaconesses at Kaiserwerth, but her real talents lay in administration, where she could manipulate and assert her will. Invited to go out to Crimea (1854), her success in mitigating Scutari's appalling conditions stemmed from organization, discipline, hard work, and being outside the army structure. On return, exploiting the legend of the Lady with the Lamp though chronically unwell, perhaps as a result of brucellosis (for 40 years), she undertook reform of the army medical services, then hospital architecture, nursing education, and sanitary reform in India. A person of considerable complexity, she raised nursing from disrepute to an honourable vocation, but was a lukewarm supporter of women's emancipation.

A. S. Hargreaves

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JOHN CANNON. "Nightingale, Florence." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 26 Sep. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Nightingale, Florence

Florence Nightingale, 1820–1910, English nurse, the founder of modern nursing, b. Florence, Italy. Her life was dedicated to the care of the sick and war wounded and to the promotion of her vision of an effective public health-care system. In 1844 she began to visit hospitals; in 1850 she spent some time with the nursing Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul in Alexandria; and a year later she studied at the institute for Protestant deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany. In 1854 she organized a unit of 38 woman nurses for service in the Crimean War; by the end of the war she had become a legend. With the testimonial fund collected for her war services she established (1860) the Nightingale School and Home for training nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital, London. She was called "The Lady with the Lamp" because she believed that a nurse's care was never ceasing, night or day; she taught that nursing was a noble profession, and she made it so. Florence Nightingale was the first woman to be given the British Order of Merit (1907). She wrote Notes … on Hospital Administration (1857), Notes on Hospitals (1859), Notes on Nursing (1860), and Notes on Nursing for the Labouring Classes (1861). After her death the Crimean Monument, Waterloo Place, London, was erected (1915) in her honor, and the Florence Nightingale International Foundation was inaugurated (1934).

See M. Vicinus and B. Nergaard, ed., Ever Yours, Florence Nightingale: Selected Letters (1989); biographies by C. Woodham-Smith (1950, 1983), E. Huxley (1975), B. M. Dossey (2000, repr. 2009), H. Small (2000), G. Gill (2004), M. Bostridge (2008), and L. McDonald (2010); studies by F. B. Smith (1982), M. E. Baly (1986, repr. 1998), and S. Dengler (1988).

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Nightingale, Florence

Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910) British nurse, b. Italy. She founded modern nursing and is best known for her activities in the Crimean War. In 1854, she took a unit of 38 nurses to care for wounded British soldiers. In 1860, she founded the Nightingale School and Home for nurse training at St Thomas's Hospital, London.

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