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Florence Nightingale: The Mother of Nursing

As the world’s most famous nurse, healthcare professionals affirm Florence Nightingale as the Mother of Nursing. [1] So much so, that the 1956 Chief of the Division of Nursing Resources for the United States Public Health Service (PHS) Margaret G. Arnstein, R.N., M.P.H., D.Sc, wrote that “her name is a synonym for nursing.”

Florence Nightingale the founder of modern nursing.

Prior to Nightingale, nursing existed exclusively within a small faction of religious orders. Her groundbreaking revelations during service in the 1954 Crimean War made medical hygiene and nursing permanent fixtures.

She taught her philosophies at St. Thomas Hospital in London, the first nursing school in history. Her pupils then led schools established in England, and Nightingale’s writings guided the Bellevue Hospital School in New York, the first nursing school in the United States. Nightingale’s practices proved so effective that Arnstein believed that they would remain valid for eternity.

Florence Nightingale: The Early Years

After marrying in Italy in 1818, William Nightingale, a prominent banker, and his wife Fanny gave birth to Nightingale on May 12, 1820. [2] The couple named her after the city of Florence. Nightingale, along with her sister, learned languages, history and philosophy from their father.

In the summer, the family lived in Derbyshire, and in the winter, they resided in Hampshire. During that period, less privileged women worked as servants or in factories. At the same time, society expected privileged women, such as the Nightingale sisters, to marry, take care of the home, and perform charity work when possible. From the young age of 16, Florence accepted God and believed that her life had an important purpose. Given the opportunity to marry at the age of 22, she decided against it and remained single for her entire life.

The Making of a Legend

While most remember Nightingale for her efforts during the Crimean War, her greatest accomplishment was her work regarding healthcare practices and nursing. [3] When returning to England from the Crimean War in 1856, an exhausted and sickly Nightingale met with the nation’s king and queen to discuss deplorable wartime medical conditions, leading to the establishment of the Royal Commission on the Health of the Army. The Commission led to great improvements in how the military delivered medical services and supplies.

In 1855, before Nightingale’s return to England, a public group that originally organized to honor Ms. Nightingale with a silver or gold award for her wartime efforts raised so much capital that the pioneer had excess funds which she used to open the Nightingale School of Nursing. [4] When the school opened for training in 1860, nursing began a long period of transformations into a globally recognized and respected profession. [3] Nursing institutions used Nightingale’s statistics and concepts to teach others. Because of these events, healthcare professionals around the world credit Nightingale with founding modern nursing philosophy.

Inspirational Words Spoken by an Inspirational Woman

To this day, care providers honor this Nightingale statement [5]:

“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.”

Another statement speaks to the passion of those who hear the call to enter the nursing profession:

“If I could give you information of my life it would be to show how a woman of very ordinary ability has been led by God in strange and unaccustomed paths to do in His service what He has done in her. And if I could tell you all, you would see how God has done all, and I nothing. I have worked hard, very hard, that is all; and I have never refused God anything.”

Nightingale attested to the power of teamwork:

“Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head (not, how can I always do this right thing myself, but) how can I provide for this right thing to be always done?”

Even then, Nightingale understood the hard work involved in caring for others:

“Women never have a half-hour in all their lives (excepting before or after anybody is up in the house) that they can call their own, without fear of offending or of hurting someone. Why do people sit up so late, or, more rarely, get up so early? Not because the day is not long enough, but because they have ‘no time in the day to themselves.”

The Florence Nightingale Effect

Nightingale firmly believed in appropriate and ethical interaction between nurses and clients. [6] When nurses worked primarily in private homes and hospitals with the same patient(s) over several weeks or even months, significant potential for a healthcare professional or patient to develop romantic feelings for the other party could develop. While this never happened in Nightingale’s case, the term took root based on her intense passion for healing. Because of this, health practitioners use the terms the “Nightingale Effect” and “Florence Nightingale Syndrome” to describe emotional manifestations that sometimes occur between patients and care providers.

Medical professionals do not recognize the Nightingale Effect as a bona fide illness. However, symptoms of the condition exhibit as the sensation of falling in love. Each case has its own unique circumstances and intensity. The condition does not present a problem unless a party in the caregiving relationship attempts to initiate a romantic relationship.

Traditional healthcare professional and ethical standards establish that care providers who pursue personal relationships with patients might face disciplinary action. For patients, an attempt to act on these feelings might lead to little more than a bruised ego.

Thanks to Florence Nightingale, patient welfare is a primary tenant of healthcare. Care providers who conform to traditional ethical standards view forming a relationship with a patient equivalent to lawyers violating client confidentiality and believe that avoiding care provider-patient relationships protects professional integrity.

Among nursing professionals, Florence Nightingale is one of the most well-known figures in healthcare. She has served as a driving force since the 1800s and continues to influence modern healthcare.

Learn More

Adventist University started building its solid foundation for nursing education in 1908 when it began training nurses so healthcare could be provided for more people. Today they offer cutting edge education and experienced faculty dedicated to helping individuals interested in pursuing a bachelor of science in nursing degree.

Recommended Readings

A Look at the Impact of IT in Nursing
The Interspersing of Nursing: A Geographical Look at the Demand for Nurses
Insider’s Guide to the Looming Nurse Shortage

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