Pioneer British Nurse, Author. She was the leading advocate in her day for improved medical care in hospitals, infirmaries and battlefields. Florence Nightingale is remembered for her contributions resulting in creation of a highly regarded and respected nursing profession. The examples, she set for nurses, are todays standards in the medical profession in regards to patient commitment, care and not the least was her excellent record keeping, imitated currently by doctors and hospital administrations. She was born, one of two girls, into a life of wealth and privilege to a British family at the Villa Colombaia in Florence, Italy and named after the city. Florence was home schooled by her parents and tutors, excelling in mathematic. At seventeen, she made the decision to dedicate her life to medically care for the sick resulting in a lifetime commitment to speak out, educate, overhaul and sanitize the appalling health care conditions in England. Over the objections of her parents, she received nursing training in Germany. Upon return to England, she became head of a nursing home which catered to wealthy women. In 1854, Britain was involved in the war against the Russians (Crimean War). British battlefield medical facilities were deplorable prompting Minister at War, Sidney Herbert, to appoint Florence to oversee the care of the wounded. She arrived in Constantinople, Turkey with a company of 38 nurses. The introduction of female nurses in the military hospitals was a major success. Sanitary conditions were improved while nurses worked as capable assistants to physicians and raised the morale of the British soldier by acting as bankers, sending the injured man's wages home, wrote letters to their families and read to the wounded. Upon the conclusion of the war, Florence returned home receiving a large amount of money raised by public subscription in gratitude for her efforts. She had been well provided for with a large monthly stipend by her wealthy father but gladly accepted the funds using the money to establish the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas' Hospital in London. It raised nursing to an accepted, highly respected profession. An applicant received a full year training with lectures but mainly practical ward work under the supervision of a ward sister. Once trained, the nurses were sent to staff hospitals in Britain and abroad and some went on to establish other nurse training schools. For the rest of her life, Florence Nightingale devoted close attention to the organization of the school while scrutinizing its training program. Amazingly she lived to be ninety, bedridden and blind, Florence merely passed away during sleep at her residence, 10 South Street in the west end of London. Burial in Westminster Abbey was an option but Florence wished to be buried with only a simple private funeral at the family plot, then interred beside her parents in St. Margaret's Churchyard at East Wellow. Pallbearers at graveside were six British Army members. She specified only two persons accompany her coffin. The final ceremony consisted of singing one religious hymn. However, funeral arrangements became public knowledge and upon arrival of the burial day, thousands lined the roadway and filled the churchyard resulting in little privacy. Legacy...England has given her numerous awards and honors. She received the Order of Merit of the British Empire, the first woman recipient, from Queen Victoria, and the Honorary Freedom award of the City of London. She has a memorial in St. Paul's Cathedral where a formal memorial service was held. There is a Florence Nightingale Museum located at St. Thomas Hospital in London where she founded the nursing school. Many exhibits and artifacts are displayed as well as a bit of folklore with an exhibit featuring the preserved owl Athena, her little pet and companion who lived in her pocket. With America's first female doctor, Elizabeth Blackwell, opened the Women's Medical College. In 1860, her best authored works was published, "Notes on Nursing," outlining principles of nursing. It is still in print today with translation in many foreign languages. In all, she had published some 200 books, reports and pamphlets. The US Navy launched a namesake troop transport during World War II, "USS Florence Nightingale," which served gallantly during the course of the war receiving four battle stars. Each year, the International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. In a bit of trivia...Florence Nightingale became known as "The Lady with the Lamp." During the Crimean War, she initially made her rounds on horseback and at night used an oil lamp to light her way, then reverted to a mule cart and finally a carriage with a hood and curtains.
Bio by: Donald Greyfield