Florence Nightingale – A Name of its Own

Florence Nightingale was born into privilege and wealth. Born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820, she received her name from the city of her birth. It is noteworthy that Florence was considered an unusual name at the time, but this changed with the fame of Miss Nightingale. Although born in Italy, she grew up in Derbyshire, Hampshire, and London, where her parents kept large, comfortable homes. Nightingale was the offspring of parents of upper-class power and influence, She was the younger of their two daughters and her upbringing was a classical education and social prominence.
Miss Nightingale”s classic education included history, multiple languages, economics, astronomy, science, philosophy, and mathematical skills. Mr. Nightingale took upon himself the classical education of Florence while Mrs. Nightingale taught her the social skills and leadership qualities. Florence became increasingly unhappy with her upper-class lifestyle. Victorian England afforded women of upper-class means to a life of little education, but an emphasis on proper male-female roles. A woman”s role in 19th century England was to be subservient to her husband and avoid occupational ambitions.
The Nightingale family ignored the custom of offering little education to their girls. On February 7, 1837, Florence said she heard the voice of God tell her that she had a mission. Nine years later she discovered her mission. In 1846, a friend sent her the Year Book of the Institute of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaisersworth, Germany, which is a training school for nurses. Four years later Florence left for Germany to attend the institute during 1850, and again returning to Germany in 1851.


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These two brief periods were the only formalized medical training she received. Miss Nightingale”s mother never supported her nursing desires, and Mr. Nightingale opposed her nursing aspirations, but gave his blessing after becoming ill and receiving attentive care from his nursing student daughter. In 1853, Nightingale received an unpaid position of Superintendent of Nurses at the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances in London. This position allowed her to display innovative skill for nursing and nursing leadership.
She established numerous changes in nursing care which included hot and cold running water on all floors, and patient call lights. In 1854, Miss Nightingale was called upon during the Crimean War. Nightingale assembled 38 women on October 21, 1854, and left for Turkey two weeks later to care for the injured and diseased British solders. For 21 months, Nightingale”s team of women established hygienic standards in the care of the wounded, and established a pure water supply. When she arrived more men were dying from fever and infection than the war wounds themselves.
She enforced sanitary regulations, and introduced special diets. With her own money she bought she bought linen, shirts, food, and even beds for the military hospital. As a result of these efforts, the mortality rate dropped to 2%, down from 60% previous to their arrival. In 1860 the Nightingale School, a formal nursing training program opened with only 10 students. Although nursing education was not her utmost personal mission after returning from the war, it soon became her mission. Florence Nightingale was a pioneer and a brilliant motivator and organizer.
She is credited with establishing nursing as the respected profession it is today. Florence Nightingale is responsible for not only modern western nursing education, but also secularized nursing training. Although a believer in a perfect and eternal God who developed laws that ruled the universe, she came to believe that all people, without regards to religious affiliation or belief, are entitled to medical and nursing care. Her influence extended beyond mere buildings and institutions.
Her mission was guided by a prevailing philosophy of nursing springing from past experiences in Crimea and London. Her conceptual theories were later refined and improved upon, as other great theories have developed over time. But the rich legacy she left behind has to do with ideas. Among these is the nursing model that treats patients as multidimensional individuals rather than merely treating the disease. Nightingale popularized the view that the purpose of nursing was to “put the patient in the best possible condition for nature to act upon him”(Nightingale, 1859).
This is now known as the environmental adaptation theory. Nightingale was also a world known writer. Notes on Nursing was her most famous book in which was written as a guide for the general public as an outline for various hygienic and sanitary improvements. Her main concern was how the public could alter the environment in order to increase health and wellness of patients. The lifelong works of Florence Nightingale have made the nursing profession what it is today and has greatly influenced the patient care ethics of Western civilizations.

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