May 12th is Florence Nightingale’s 199th birthday, and in honor of this incredible, world famous, and important nurse, we want to talk about her legacy in nursing schools, nurse training, and our profession in general.

The World’s First Modern Nurse

What was Florence Nightingale famous for? Well, she revolutionized the medical industry, she was a pioneer, visionary, and a woman– she is single-handedly credited with the founding of the modern nursing profession.

Nightingale was a nurse during the Crimean War in 1844 at the age of 24 and was stationed at a British base, caring for wounded soldiers. She immediately noticed the horrendous conditions of the field hospital and recognized the need for a basic set of principles based on cleanliness and the environment.

The Florence Nightingale Method

Nightingale was considered the first ever nursing theorist. She discussed the need for standard nursing practices, methods, and an overall code of professional guidelines that would have a strong influence on the outcomes of patients.

She firmly believed that the care of a nurse could drastically increase the rate of successful recovery for all patients. She called this the Environmental Theory and these are the 10 most important aspects of that theory:

  1. Patients should have clean air and a temperature-controlled environment.
  2. Patients should have access to direct sunlight and not be subjected to unnecessary noise, especially when sleeping.
  3. Patient rooms should be kept clean.
  4. Bedding should be changed and aired frequently.
  5. Patients should be kept clean and nurses should wash hands frequently.
  6. Patients should be offered a variety of scenery, such as new books or flowers, to prevent boredom.
  7. Nurses should be positive but not offer false hope to patients or make light of their illness.
  8. Offer a variety of small meals instead of large ones, and do not do patient care while the patient is eating as it is distracting.
  9. Consider not only the individual patient but the context of where he or she lives.

To modern day nurses, these rules seem obvious and more like common sense. But we must remember that it wasn’t until 1847 that the first doctor ever,Ignaz Semmelweis, decided that washing hands would prevent some patient deaths.

That was only 3 years AFTER her time in the Crimean war. She was discussing cleanliness years before it was established. The Environmental Theory of Nursing was truly revolutionary. At a time when nurses where simply aids, this was the first time they were seen to have a MAJOR impact on patient health.
In 1860 she established St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses.

The Legend of the “Lady with the Lamp”

Anyone who knows the story of Florence Nightingale will know her other name, the name that was given to her by wounded soldiers.

She was given this name because she would often go from bedside to bedside at night, checking on soldiers. She would do her medical due diligence and she also began to interact with them as if she knew that a soldier’s mental wellbeing was just as important to his recovery as his physical wellbeing was.

Eventually, she would be canonized in The Times, in an article that read:

She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds”

She dedicated her life to the wellbeing of others, and so on her 199th birthday, we want to remember her and we encourage all nursing students to learn more about her incredible impact on the world. We are all following in her scrubs. Nurses and patients alike owe a debt of gratitude to this pioneer, to the Lady with the Lamp, to Florence Nightingale – the worlds first modern nurse.

Sources

  1. Biography.com – Florence Nightingale Biography
  2. History.com – Florence Nightingale – HISTORY
  3. Britannica – Ignaz Semmelweism
  4. The Vintage News – Florence Nightingale – The story behind the lady with the lamp< li>