Florence Nightingale

Founder of modern nursing

Why She’s Amazing

Florence Nightingale didn’t want to be a princess. She wanted to be more.

Florence never let anything stop her from following her dream of being a nurse. She viewed caring for others as her calling even when she was dissuaded or not understood. Ultimately, her perseverance and accomplishments led to and understanding of the need for the nursing profession.

Known as the “Angel of Crimea” and “the Lady with the lamp”, Florence saved hundreds of lives during the Crimean War. In addition, her teachings on how to run field hospitals saved countless other lives during the U.S. Civil War.

Even during times of peace, Florence dedicated herself to improving healthcare conditions around the world. She published an 830-page report based on her experiences and suggested reforms to military hospitals. This report led to the establishment of the Royal Commission for the Health of the Army in 1857.

In 1860, she was given a monetary gift from the Queen as an award for her services. She used that money to create St. Thomas Hospital. The hospital featured the Nightingale Training School for Nurses where Florence pioneered the study of nursing techniques.

Florence received numerous award, including becoming the first woman to receive the Order of Merit in 1907.
While nursing thrives today as a much-respected profession, what Florence did to set it in motion was nothing short of courageous.

“I never gave or took any excuse.” – Florence Nightingale

Her Determination

As a teenager, Florence dreamed of becoming a nurse. At age 16, she told her parents about her aspirations and was met with strong resistance. Instead, they wanted her to follow a lady’s path, settle down and get married. They viewed nursing as a small-time job that would distract Florence from her female obligations in the future.

Florence, however, challenged the societal conventions and pushed ahead in her studies. In 1844, she began to study nursing at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserswerth, Germany. Upon completing her education, she returned to London and worked at a hospital. She found the hygiene subpar and vowed to do something about it. Florence was committed to transforming hospitals into places that improve patients’ health, not add opportunities for illness.

Although Florence continually battled prejudice and the negative reputation of female nurses in the Army, she was undeterred. Her passion, talent and unwavering commitment paid off when the Secretary of War during the Crimean War asked her to organize a group of nurses to tend the soldiers in Crimea. Florence immediately rose to the occasion.

A True Inspiration

Her determination in an era when a woman’s interest in working, much less in the medical field, was strongly discouraged, provided girls and young women with an incredible role model. They looked up to her, wrote poems about her and dreamed of being her. Florence was their hero and a continual reminder to never give up on a dream.

In 1859, Florence published “Notes on Nursing”. While she intended the book to help in the practice of nursing, not to be a comprehensive guide, nursing schools today continue to use it as an introduction to the profession. In the 1870s, she mentored Linda Richards, the first professionally trained American nurse, who went on to establish nurse training programs in the U.S. and Japan.

Florence once said, “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” Still today, Florence’s actions, accomplishments and unwavering commitment to the field of nursing continue to inspire.

Fun Facts:

  • Florence was called “the Lady with the Lamp” because she often walked the corridors of the hospital at night with a lamp as she tended to patients.
  • Along with award money from the Queen, she received a brooch which became known as the “Nightingale Jewel”.
  • The Queen was not the only royal who recognized Florence’s abilities. In 1908, she was conferred the merit of honor by King Edward.
  • Her work in Crimea reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.
  • Despite having “Crimean Fever” and being bedridden, Florence lived to be 90 years old.