Florence Nightingale also known as ‘Lady with Lamp’ was born on 12 May 1820 and died on the 13th of August 1910, the founder of modern nursing. She came to prominence while serving as a nurse during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers.
In 1860, Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King’s College London.
The Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses was named in her honour, and the annual International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday. Nightingale underwent the first of several experiences that she believed were calls from God in February 1837 while at Embley Park, prompting a strong desire to devote her life to the service of others.
In her youth she was respectful of her family’s opposition to her working as a nurse, only announcing her decision to enter the field in 1844. Despite the intense anger and distress of her mother and sister, she rebelled against the expected role for a woman of her status to become a wife and mother.
Nightingale’s affluent British family belonged to elite social circles. Her mother, Frances Nightingale, hailed from a family of merchants and took pride in socializing with people of prominent social standing. Despite her mother’s interest in social climbing, Florence herself was reportedly awkward in social situations.
In the early 1850s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a nursing job in a Middlesex hospital for ailing governesses. Her performance there so impressed her employer that Nightingale was promoted to superintendant within just a year of being hired.
The position proved challenging as Nightingale grappled with a cholera outbreak and unsanitary conditions conducive to the rapid spread of the disease.In October of 1853, the Crimean War broke out. The British Empire was at war against the Russian Empire for control of the Ottoman Empire.
In late 1854, 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.The hospital sat on top of a large cesspool, which contaminated the water and the hospital building itself. Patients lay on 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. Despite having cared for sick relatives and tenants on the family estates, her attempts to seek nurse’s training were thwarted by her family as an inappropriate activity for a woman of her stature.
In 1851 she spent four months at Kaiserswerth, training as a sick nurse. When she returned home, she undertook more visits to London hospitals; in the autumn of 1852 she inspected hospitals in Edinburgh and Dublin.
In May 1855 Nightingale visited the hospitals at and near Balaclava along with Mr. Bracebridge and Alexis Soyer. Nightingale fell ill from Crimean fever and she was dangerously ill for twelve days.
Early in June she returned to Scutari and resumed her work there. In addition to her nursing work she tried to provide reading and recreation rooms for the men and their families.