Florence Nightingale (12 May 1820 – 13 August 1910) was a British social reformer, writer, statistician, and most famously, the founder of modern nursing.
Florence, the daughter of an affluent, upper-class English couple, was named after the city of her birth, Florence, in Italy. During her childhood, she travelled extensively. She grew into an attractive, slim, determined and opinionated woman. Florence was courted by a poet. After nine years, she finally rejected her suitor, deciding to dedicate her life to nursing. At this time, the nursing profession was considered a lowly profession, unsuited to educated and gentile ladies, however Florence was determined and would not be discouraged or diverted.
Her father provided her with an annual income of £500 per year, which was sufficient in those days to live comfortably. Florence undertook some medical training and then began to train other volunteer nurses. Shocked by the conditions faced by soldiers in the Crimean war, Florence arrived there in 1854 with a squad of thirty-eight nurses she had trained and fifteen catholic nuns. They found soldiers were dying more from infections like typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery, than from their battle wounds. Florence is credited with organising the first prefab hospital which was built in England and then shipped to the Dardanelles. Whilst caring for the sick and wounded soldiers, Florence became known as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ as she made tireless rounds of the wards late at night. In 1855 the Nightingale fund was established to train nurses. This enabled the Nightingale Training School to be established at St. Thomas’ Hospital, London. The first Nightingale trained nurses began work on the sixteenth May 1859. Florence’s book, Notes on Nursing, published in 1859 provided the foundation of the curriculum. Florence is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. In recognition of her pioneering work, the Nightingale pledge, a modified version of the Hippocratic oath is taken by new nurses. The Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated on her birthday. Her social reforms included improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws which were harsh for women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.
Nightingale was a prodigious and versatile writer. In her lifetime, much of her published work was concerned with expanding medical knowledge amongst the working classes. Many of her tracts were written in easy to understand English, so that they could easily be followed by those with poor literary skills. She was also a pioneer in data visulisation effectively using graphs to present statistical data. Much of her writing, including her extensive work on religion and mysticism, has only been published posthumously.
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