Nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale

Black and white photograph of Florence Nightingale standing with her left hand resting on a stack of books. She is wearing a mid-19th century dress with a striped skirt, a dark bodice, and white lace cuffs and collar. Her hair is parted in the middle and adorned with a light-colored headband. She appears calm and is looking slightly to the right of the camera.
Florence Nightingale

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.” – Florence Nightingale

Born in Florence, Italy, while her family traveled there from England in 1820, she found life purpose while in her teens. It was a “divine calling.” She wanted to care for others, specifically as a nurse. But growing up within the strict social codes of upper-class England, her desires were challenging to pursue. While she was well educated, marriage and motherhood was the expectation, and nursing was a profession for the poor and unskilled at the time. For years, Florence put aside her goals out of respect for the worries of her family. But by her mid-20s, she rejected marriage and began training to become a nurse.

As a nurse, Florence showed much care to patients and pushed for essential changes. Affectionately nicknamed “The Lady with the Lamp,” by wounded and sick soldiers in her care during the Crimean War, she was known for walking hallways late into the evenings checking on patients. And in a time when hospitals were known as places that people just went to die, she, along with nurses under her training, worked to improve cleanliness, sanitation, quality of food, and comfort. All of these changes helped reduce the death rate of patients from forty percent to two.

After the war, Florence opened a school for training nurses, who would work all over the world. And she wrote many articles and guides and would do much to bring better care for patients while elevating the importance of nursing as a profession. 

Looking back on her life, Florence said, “I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”

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