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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Florence Nightingale: founder of modern nursing.

FLORENCE Nightingale is remembered as 'The Lady With The Lamp,' a nursing saint who brought comfort and hope to thousands of wounded British soldiers in the Crimea. But her influence on British medicine goes much deeper than that.
Taking her Christian name from the Italian city in which she was born in 1820, Florence was the daughter of William Edward Nightingale. she trained as a nurse. first at Kaiserswerth in Prussia in 1851, and later in Paris. She took over as superintendent of a London women's hospital in 1853.
The Crimean War began that same year and within 12 months, disturbing reports were reaching Britain of the suffering caused to the wounded by lack of care and supplies. Florence volunteered to take a party of 38 nurses to the battle zone, setting up her headquarters at Scutari.
There she organised the barracks hospital, introducing badly-needed sanitary measures which massively reduced the hospital's mortality rate after the Battle of Inkerman on November 5th.
Grateful soldiers dubbed her 'The Lady With The Lamp' because of her nightly rounds of the wards.
However, not everything about Florence was sweetness and light. She had blatantly racialist reasons for refusing to work with a black Jamaican nurse called Mary Seacole, who also volunteered for the Crimea and did an exceptional job nursing soldiers at the front line.
By the time she returned to England in 1856, Florence Nightingale had become a national heroine and the public raised the then enormous sum of £50,000 to help her found a nurses' training institute at St Thomas's Hospital and King's College Hospital.

When the Indian Mutiny broke out in 1857 Nightingale offered to leave for India immediately if there was anything she could do. Her services were not required but she became interested in the sanitary condition of the army and people there. From her work, a Sanitary Department was established in the Indian government. She became familiar with many facets of Indian life and demanded that there should be improvements in health and sanitation there. She did not visit India.She wrote papers on the causes of famine, the need of irrigation and the poverty of the people of India. In 1890 she contributed a paper on village sanitation in India. Her book, Notes on Nursing first appeared in 1860 and was reprinted many times during in her lifetime.
She devoted the rest of her life to improving public health and standards of hospital care, taking nursing out of the dark ages and turning it into a skilled and honorable profession.
She wrote several books on the subject, her main one, Notes on Nursing (1859), running to many editions. She died in 1910, but in the century since then, her attitudes, motivation and politics have been frequently called into question by historians.  The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth.

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