Florence Nightingale entered the hospital and was appalled and horrified by what she saw. Wounded soldiers lay on straw mats that lined the room like coffins waiting for burial. The floor was covered with dirt and blood. There were no hospital gowns: the men still wore their uniforms. As Nightingale passed them, each soldier tried to act stern and tough, but their boyish faces betrayed unmistakable pain. Those who were able to conquer their convulsions lay still, as if dead.
These were the hospital conditions in Scutari, Turkey during the Crimean War. Florence and a group of nurses were sent to this hospital to help make the hospital a more efficient place. The first change Florence made was scrubbing all the injured men's clothes. Then, she spent her own money buying bandages, operating tables and other basic necessities for the hospital. Her nurses cleaned the whole hospital so there were no more germs and this helped to stop contamination and spread of disease. She is a hero because she changed the hospital and saved lives with her determination and hard work.
Florence Nightingale also changed the profession of nursing forever. Nursing was once an occupation with little respect: people didn't think you needed any special training or skills to do it, and most nurses were poor and uneducated. It was very unusual for Florence, who came from the upper class, to work in a hospital. The hospital conditions were more sanitary after she reorganized everything. Funds and donations flooded into hospitals and the patients received better care. Hospitals around the world were changed forever, and caring for the sick became an honorable profession.
Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy on May 12,
1820. Although Italian born, she grew up in London, England
where her education included the study of Greek, Latin,
German, French and Italian. Her father taught her
history and philosophy while her governess schooled her in music
and drawing. As part of an upper class family, Nightingale and her
sister were expected to grow up as proper
ladies who would "devote themselves to their family,
husband, society, entertainment and cultural
pursuits" (Bullough, 1993).
She was driven by a different dream. She believed that
her attraction to nursing was God's will, or "a calling," and
because of that she made many personal sacrifices to pursue her
professional life with intensity.
Her family disapproved of her decision to take up the
nursing profession, which was seen in her day as a vocation
for lower classes, one carried out under harsh
conditions in dirty hospital environments. The family's
disappointment did not deter her from her goal, and at the
age of 33, having studied nursing for nine years, Florence
began caring for the sick.
In 1853, she was asked to work at the Harley Street Nursing
Home. There, she made improvements that included
better organization and training for the staff, and she implemented
a system that piped hot water
to every floor. She also created a lift to bring patients
their meals (Falkus, 1980).
The Crimean War began and the British army was unprepared
to accommodate British battle injuries and casualties in Crimea. This led
to disasters such as cholera, lack of supplies, and
inadequate sanitation. British Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert,
asked Nightingale to take nurses and help
the hospital in Scutari, Turkey. On October 21, 1854 she set
out for the hospital with the 38 nurses she had trained.
The state of the hospital in Turkey was horrendous but
even more challenging was the hostile attitude that the nurses received from the doctors. Many did not even allow
nurses inside the wards!
It wasn't until the
Battle of Inkerman, during which the British suffered many
casualties and the hospitals became overcrowd, that the
doctors were forced to ask for help.
Nightingale used her own money to make the hospital
a cleaner, healthier and more efficient place for patients.
She brought in basics including bandages, extra clothes, 200
scrub brushes and better food. She also took all the
dirty clothing outside the hospital to be washed.
She sent reports back to London
about ways to improve conditions
and assumed care of the patients at night, moving about each floor comforting patients with a lamp
in hand. This intimate relationship with her
patients earned her the affectionate title of
"Lady with the Lamp."
Though the male hospital team often resented
her power to affect change, the troops were so grateful to her that they
raised a special fund to allow her to continue her work.
Through selfless devotion and sheer determination, Florence
Nightingale transformed the profession of nursing forever.
She gave dignity and honor to what continues to be a female-dominated profession
and revolutionized hospital conditions, making them more
organized and above all, sanitary. Largely because of her
efforts, funds and donations flood into hospitals,
allowing patients around the world to receive better care.