Tribute to Florence Nightingale

22 May 2020

The month of May marks both International Nurses Day and the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale. The world’s most famous nurse remains as relevant today as ever.

Every nurse ought to wash her hands frequently,’ wrote Florence Nightingale in her famous Notes on Nursing in 1859.

It is perhaps fitting that in the 200th year of the founder of modern nursing, one of her noted phrases rings true for all.

The planned events for her bicentenary year and the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife may not be going ahead for now – one of the biggest was due to be held at London’s ExCeL centre in October, which is now the first of several NHS Nightingale hospitals. However, nurses and all healthcare professionals are perhaps more valued and celebrated now than they ever have been, as they remain at the centre of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

The original fighter

Florence was of course a nurse during the Crimean war. She was asked to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. When she arrived, she began organising the hospitals to improve supplies, their overall condition and cleanliness. She soon became known as ‘Lady of the Lamp’ as she went about checking on the soldiers each night.

But her greatest achievements went beyond that. In 1860, she established the first professional training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital. She went on to publish more than 200 books and reports on hospital planning and organisation – still read today – and carried on campaigning to improve health standards. Her influence on today’s nursing is felt far and wide: for instance, her ward designs and pioneering of infection control measures. She also established a School of Midwifery Nursing at King’s College Hospital and inspired the International Red Cross.

A legacy

Today, the Florence Nightingale Foundation has the following as its mission: ‘To pioneer change and improvements in patient and health outcomes, through nursing and midwifery leadership, honouring Florence Nightingale’s legacy.’ It offers scholarships, training and leadership support.

The Florence Nightingale Museum in London, which helped inform this piece, may have been forced to close its doors, but you can still view its online exhibition. Sadly, it faces permanent closure, and is encouraging online purchases and donations to help save it.

Over the coming year, we’ll be looking at other nursing greats Mary Seacole, Edith Cavell, and Betsi Cadwaladr. Right now, let’s celebrate every nurse and health and social care worker. 

Picture Credit | Alamy

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