She was born in the city of Florence, Italy, on 12 May 1820 whilst her parents were enjoying a long honeymoon. And that’s how she got her name – Florence!
When she was 16 years old, she began to have a strange encounter, which she believed was a voice from God calling for her to carry out important work to help those suffering.
At first the call disturbed her. Not knowing the nature of the “service. Now she was given to periods of preoccupation, or to what she called “dreams” of how to fulfill her mission.
At this point, several suitors were already lining up for the beautiful and wealthy Florence. She especially liked one of them, but she could not bring herself to say yes, especially when she did not know what “service” lay ahead.
Soon due to certain events, it became clear to Florence what she must do.
She wanted to be a nurse!
Now, this was a huge problem…
In those days, Nursing was not a respectful profession.
When Florence broke the news to her parents, they were shocked, horrified and angry! She was a gentlewoman! Their objections were understandable.
In that era, English hospitals were places of degradation, filth, and horrible places where sick people died.
The malodorous “hospital smell” was literally nauseating to many, and nurses usually drank heavily to dull their senses.
Florence herself admitted that the head nurse of a London hospital told her that “in the course of her long experience she had never known a nurse who was not drunken, and there was immoral conduct in the very wards.”
In addition, ladies in her society, were expected to get married, attend to servants, host and attend society parties, and generally live a life of frivolity, ease and class.
His father, William, a wealthy banker, tried hard to change his daughter’s mind, but Florence was determined.
While facing opposition from her close family and the rigid social codes that were applied to young, affluent English women of the time, she independently succeeded in obtaining her nursing education through her tenacity and adamant resolve.
First, She procured government reports on national health conditions, then she got up at predawn every morning and pored over them by the light of an oil lamp, filling notebook after notebook with facts and figures, which she indexed and tabulated.
Eventually, her parents capitulated, and allowed Florence to study nursing at a Christian school for women in Germany.
Her first test
In 1854, the Crimean War broke out – a war with Britain, France, and Turkey on one side, and Russia on the other. British troops went off to fight in the Crimea – an area in the south of Russia, now part of Ukraine. News soon reached home of soldiers dying from battle wounds, cold, hunger, and sickness, with no real medical care or nurses to treat them.
Help was needed fast, and the Minister for War – Sidney Herbert – knew just the person… He asked Florence to lead a team of nurses to the Crimea.
This was Florence Nightingale’s first test.
When they arrived, the nurses found the Army hospital in a terrible state. It was overcrowded and filthy, with blocked drains, broken toilets and rats running everywhere.
Wounded soldiers had to sleep on the dirty floor, without blankets to keep warm, clean water to drink or fresh food to eat. Not surprisingly, disease spread quickly and most of the soldiers died from infection.
Faced with a daunting task, Florence Nightingale implemented some concepts that are at the core of nursing practice to this day. She knew that the soldiers could only get well again if the hospital conditions improved.
She accomplished this by cleaning the entire hospital from top to bottom and requiring proper hygiene, such as clean linens, for the soldiers. This is an incredible feat since at the time, microbes and the chain of infection was not known.
Lady with the lamp
Another powerful thing that Florence introduced, was therapeutic communication.
Florence Nightingale required that patients do things for themselves in order to gain independence and promote healing. The least wounded patients at the hospital were assigned with the task.
In order to talk to and assess the condition of her patients, she made rounds at night with her lamp. Today, nursing assessments are the core of nursing, and all nursing actions are based on them.
At night, when everyone was sleeping, Florence would visit the soldiers to make sure they were comfortable. She’d also write letters home for those who could not write themselves. Since Florence carried a lantern with her on her night visits, the soldiers would call her ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.
The implementation of all these concepts in the battlefield hospital setting significantly reduced the death rate at the hospital by two thirds.
Slowly but steadily, Nightingale was making a name for herself while also giving nursing a highly favourable reputation
As an injured sergeant once recollected,
“I would not be where I am today without the compassion, dedication and guidance of these nurses. For every heart-wrenching story there was a nurse that stood right beside. There was a nurse running every time one of our soldiers suffered a cardiac arrest, who despaired with me as she alternated chest compressions to time. The nurse who stood next to me ran to fetch blood products needed to keep someone alive because the porters would not have made it in time. Nurses epitomize the goodwill that health care services care are run on. They laugh and cry with their patients, emptying bed pans with one hand while fluffing pillows and blankets with the other. They would make their patients a cup of tea with one hand while dispensing life-saving medication with the other.”
“If a nurse refuses to do these kinds of things for her patient, ‘because it is not her business’, I should say that nursing was not her calling.”
– Florence Nightingale
The return of a heroine
By the time Florence returned to England in 1856, her fame has spread through all England.
The queen presented Florence with a diamond brooch. The inscription on the reverse side read, “To Miss Florence Nightingale as a mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion toward the queen’s brave soldiers from Victoria R. 1855.”
But Florence had no care for fame, and even though the war was over, there was still work to be done. She set about writing letters to important people telling them what was wrong with Army hospitals, and in September 1856 she met with Queen Victoria to discuss ways to improve military medical systems.
Nightingale wrote a massive 830-page report analysing and proposing reforms for military hospitals that operate under poor conditions.
“How very little can be accomplished under the spirit of fear.”
– Florence Nightingale
Huge reform took place – the Army started to train doctors, hospitals became cleaner and soldiers were provided with better clothing, food and care.
In 1860, Florence Nightingale opened the first nursing school. It was the beginning of professional education and training in the field of nursing. It offered the first official training program for nurses that enabled them to work in hospitals, help the poor and teach others.
The long-lasting legacy of Florence Nightingale is illustrated through the Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses, which is a kind of modified version of the Hippocratic Oath. The Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction that can be obtained by a nurse is also named in her honour. The International Nurses Day is cherished all around the globe and celebrated on her birthday, May 12th.
Nightingale also wrote and published work that spread medical knowledge easily. Ever mindful of reaching out equally to everyone, her records were mostly written in simple English so that anyone, even the least literate was able to understand it.
Sleep now, my child
Florence had remarkable stamina. When she was young, she sometimes worked twenty-two out of twenty-four hours.
Florence suffered from illness for much of her later life, largely because of all her hard work helping sick people. In fact, during her final 40 years she spent many days confined to her bed.
She continued to write until her sight failed, her memory dulled, and she became a little vague. On August 13, 1910, she fell asleep around noon and did not awaken. She was 90 years old.
“I owe my success to this one principle in life, that I never gave or took an excuse.”
– Florence Nightingale
According to Florence Nightingale, nursing is more than a profession, it is a calling.
This call of duty disposed nurses to attend to patients with kindness, compassion, great tenderness and a joyous spirit, to experience moments of true empathy with patients. Florence was motivated by the teachings of the Bible and her love for God.
She was the most influential and extraordinary nurse in history. Kings, queens, and princes all consulted her, as did the president of the United States, who wanted her advice about military hospitals during the Civil War.
Her story inspires us and challenges us to rediscover God’s purpose for our lives.
And here lies the deeper meaning of what we do in Millionaires Academy. Helping you rediscover your purpose in life, and realign your work with your natural abilities.
We know that the only way to live a glorious and successful life is to live a life of purpose, to work in alignment with your God-given talents and design for your life.
So learn from this amazing lady, refocus on your calling in life, and success will naturally find you.
Cheers and have a lovely day.
Engr Emma Okoro
Improving Every Life Through Applicable Learning