Nightingale


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Create a plan for better health outcomes. Measure intervention success. Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, on May 12, Part of a wealthy family, Nightingale defied the expectations of the time and pursued what she saw as her God-given calling of nursing. During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses improved the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, greatly reducing the death count.

Her writings sparked worldwide health care reform, and in she established St. A revered hero of her time, she died on August 13, , in London. Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, , in Florence, Italy, the city which inspired her name. The younger of two daughters, Nightingale was part of an affluent British clan that belonged to elite social circles. Her mother, Frances Nightingale, hailed from a family of merchants and took pride in socializing with people of prominent standing.

Despite her mother's interests, Florence herself was reportedly awkward in social situations and preferred to avoid being the center of attention whenever possible. Strong-willed, she often butted heads with her mother, whom she viewed as overly controlling. Florence's father was William Edward Nightingale having changed his original surname, "Shore" , a wealthy landowner who would be associated with two estates—one at Lea Hurst, Derbyshire, and the other at Embly, Hampshire.

When Nightingale approached her parents and told them about her ambitions to become a nurse, they were not pleased and forbade her to pursue appropriate training. In , Nightingale refused a marriage proposal from a "suitable" gentleman, Richard Monckton Milnes, who had pursued her for years. She explained her reason for turning him down, saying that while he stimulated her intellectually and romantically, her "moral…active nature" called for something beyond a domestic life.

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One biographer has suggested that the rejection of marriage to Milnes was not in fact an outright refusal. Determined to pursue her true calling despite her parents' objections, Nightingale eventually enrolled as a nursing student in and '51 at the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses in Kaiserswerth, Germany. In the early s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a nursing job in a Harley Street hospital for ailing governesses.

Her performance there so impressed her employer that Nightingale was promoted to superintendent.

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Nightingale also volunteered at a Middlesex hospital around this time, grappling with a cholera outbreak and unsanitary conditions conducive to the rapid spread of the disease. Nightingale made it her mission to improve hygiene practices, significantly lowering the death rate at the hospital in the process.


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In October of , the Crimean War broke out. Allied British and French forces were at war against the Russian Empire for control of Ottoman territory. Thousands of British soldiers were sent to the Black Sea, where supplies quickly dwindled. By , no fewer than 18, soldiers had been admitted into military hospitals. At the time, there were no female nurses stationed at hospitals in the Crimea. After the Battle of Alma, England was in an uproar about the neglect of their ill and injured soldiers, who not only lacked sufficient medical attention due to hospitals being horribly understaffed but also languished in appallingly unsanitary conditions.

In late , Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. Given full control of the operation, she quickly assembled a team of almost three dozen nurses from a variety of religious orders and sailed with them to the Crimea just a few days later.


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Although they had been warned of the horrid conditions there, nothing could have prepared Nightingale and her nurses for what they saw when they arrived at Scutari, the British base hospital in Constantinople. Patients lay in their own excrement on stretchers strewn throughout the hallways. Rodents and bugs scurried past them. The most basic supplies, such as bandages and soap, grew increasingly scarce as the number of ill and wounded steadily increased. Even water needed to be rationed.

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More soldiers were dying from infectious diseases like typhoid and cholera than from injuries incurred in battle. The no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set to work. She procured hundreds of scrub brushes and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital from floor to ceiling. Nightingale herself spent every waking minute caring for the soldiers. In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient.

Florence Nightingale: Saving lives with statistics

The soldiers, who were both moved and comforted by her endless supply of compassion, took to calling her "the Lady with the Lamp. In addition to vastly improving the sanitary conditions of the hospital, Nightingale instituted an "invalid's kitchen" where appealing food for patients with special dietary requirements was prepared. She also established a laundry so that patients would have clean linens.

Nightingale remained at Scutari for a year and a half. She left in the summer of , once the Crimean conflict was resolved, and returned to her childhood home at Lea Hurst.

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