"Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better" (Florence Nightingale).
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"It seems a commonly
received idea among men and even among women themselves that it requires
nothing but a disappointment in love, the want of an object, a general disgust,
or incapacity for other things, to turn a woman into a good nurse..."
(Florence Nightingale). Florence Nightingale, in her book Notes On Nursing,
explicates the common definition of a nurse in her time, something that she
devoted her life to reshape. She was an extraordinary woman who persevered to
ameliorate the profession of nursing and healthcare. On May 12, 1820, Florence
Nightingale was born to an affluent family with elite social status. Growing
up, she was expected to marry well but chose to grow herself intellectually and
pursued the lowly profession of nursing. At that time, nurses were untrained
and uneducated, and often drunk. During the Crimean War, she was appointed
superintendent, and "as superintendent of the institution for the next
fourteen months, Nightingale ...completely reorganized the hospital, from food
and beds to medical supplies and sanitary conditions" (Charlie Deborah).
Her methods helped save two-thirds of the hospitalized soldiers. Having the
influence of even Queen Victoria, she was able to established St. Thomas'
Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses along with writing
several books on nursing. She became the first woman to earn Britain's highest
honor, the Order of Merit. Growing up and having the ability to live a
comfortable and fashionable life, she instead chose to pursue a larger problem-
the lack of sanitation in hospitals, and became a nurse to care for those that
could not afford a private doctor. Working against her parents' wishes, she
persevered to improve healthcare and contribute to a greater good all through
her life. Florence Nightingale selflessly sacrificed her luxurious lifestyle,
compassionately worked to care for others while improving the nursing field,
and was driven to reforming healthcare.
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Giving up what could have been a
fashionable and easy life of luxury, Nightingale turned to the lowly profession
of nursing to help others. This was something that no women in her position
would even think to do. Florence Nightingale turned down an opportunity for an
opulent lifestyle to pursue nursing: "When Nightingale was 17 years old,
she refused a marriage proposal from a 'suitable' gentleman, Richard Monckton
Milnes. Nightingale explained her reason for turning him down, saying that
while he stimulated her intellectually and romantically, her 'moral...active
nature...requires satisfaction, and that would not find it in this life.'
Determined to pursue her true calling despite her parents' objections, in 1844,
Nightingale enrolled as a nursing student..." (Florence Nightingale
Biography). Nightingale decided to pursue a fulfilling life, despite her
parents' wishes to marry well, and studied nursing to care for others and put
other people's needs before her comforts. Nightingale rejected a proposal from
a suitable gentleman, one that could provide her with a lavish lifestyle, and she
instead chose to enroll in a nursing school. Most women of her time did not
work unless they needed the financial income, which Nightingale did not:
"In the early 1850s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a
nursing job in a Middlesex hospital for ailing governesses...The position
proved challenging as Nightingale grappled 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. The hard work took a toll on her
health. She had just barely recovered when the biggest challenge of her nursing
career presented itself" (Florence Nightingale Biography). Nightingale
gave up the years of her youth, which could have been spent at social
gatherings. She chose to study nursing, and then took a nursing job in a
hospital for "ailing governesses," or women with poor health. In
doing so, she put herself in danger of contracting various sorts of illnesses
and diseases. Yet, even though she was aware of the risks of this job, she
still continued to work in the horrid conditions. After becoming sick herself,
she did not give up and return home. Instead, she stayed and became inspired to
improve the hygiene of the hospital. After her work at the Middlesex hospital,
she would continue to help others, despite her inadequate health. Her
selflessness to devote her life to helping others despite such unfavorable
conditions was a heroic and brave risk that sets her apart from other women at
her time. She was willing to put others needs before her comforts, and others
health before hers.
|Nightingale was nicknamed
Before Nightingale worked in the
Crimea, and even before she became a nurse, she worked hard to care for
patients and tried to make her patients as clean and comfortable as possible.
When Nightingale's mother would not let her work as a nurse, she found a way to
help others: "Whenever possible, Florence made herself useful by caring
for sick relatives. She found great satisfaction in easing their misery... She
also went to the cottages of poor people who needed help, taking them food,
clothes, medicine, whatever Fanny (her mother) would let her have" (Gena
K. Gorrell 30-31). Even before she worked as a nurse, she voluntarily helped
nurse her relatives back to health and was charitable to those less fortunate
than her. Her affluence was used in a way many girls would be unwilling to use.
Nightingale was aware of the world outside hers. She knew there were people
struggling elsewhere, so she took action to help these people as much as she
could. She worked not for the recognition or the profit, but rather for the
satisfaction of helping others. Later, when Nightingale and a few other nurses
were called to help in Crimea, they were shocked by the conditions of the
hospital. The water and building itself were filthy and contaminated, and the
hospital lacked basic supplies: "The no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set
to work...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... Her work
reduced the hospital's death rate by two-thirds. She instituted the creation of
an "invalid's kitchen" where appealing food for patients with special
dietary requirements was cooked. She established a laundry so patients would
have clean linens. She also instituted a classroom and a library, for patients'
intellectual stimulation and entertainment" (Florence Nightingale
Biography). Nightingale worked untiring to improve the conditions of the
hospitals, "spending every waking hour." She also genuinely cared
about the soldiers' health, as she went from patient to patient to comfort them
late at night. Her dedication to her work made a tremendous impact on the
soldiers, largely reducing the mortality rate. The amenities Nightingale
provided for the soldiers showed the consideration she had to make sure all the
patients were comfortable and cared for. Nightingale was dedicated to her work
and worked for the satisfaction of helping others. She worked with compassion
and her methods proved successful, saving two-thirds of the soldiers during the
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The fiery passion she had when
she saw all the things wrong that the hospitals were doing was what fueled
Nightingale to reform the profession of nursing and the approach to healthcare
in hospitals. When her family completely rejected her idea of becoming a nurse,
she did not comply: "She was determined not to give up her dreams. Night
after night, she studied, huddled in a shawl and working by candlelight...
chart upon chart, notebook upon notebook, she built an impressive knowledge of
sanitation and sickness" (Gena K. Gorrell 37-38). Her family's disapproval
did not preclude her. Instead, Nightingale's dedication and determination to
educate herself in nursing grew during the cold nights studying books and
reports. By documenting the information she learned, she drew connections that
led her to later improve hospitals conditions to include sanitation methods.
After she finished her work in Crimea, she became sick herself: "Frail and
feeble - badly underweight, unable to feed herself, barely able to talk"
Florence defied the doctors, who said she should go home to England, and insisted
on staying in the Crimea" (Gena K. Gorrell 82). Florence Nightingale had
overworked herself to the point that she could barely even speak. At this
point, most people would go back home and rest. But she disregarded the doctors
and their advice and was determined to stay in Crimea and continue reforming
hospitals. Since she was younger, she kept a flame alive in her that powered
her to work all though her career, even to very extreme points at which most
people would give up. And after working during the Crimean War,
"Nightingale's work was far from finished: For the next fifty years, she
kept fighting for hospital reform" (Charlie Deborah).
Throughout her life, Florence
Nightingale worked hard to change the definition of a nurse. She gave nurses
respect, education, and purpose. She created effective nurses, along with a
better and purposeful healthcare system of hospitals where people could get
treatment rather than perish. Nightingale is an inspiration, as she earned the
respect of others through her hark work and dedication to help the people.
Unlike many leaders, she used her position and affluence righteously to benefit
others. She worked tirelessly, even when her own health deteriorated. Florence
Nightingale has taught me to work for a greater purpose than for awards,
salary, or admiration. Through her determination, she was able to save many
people's lives, solve problems regarding the method of healthcare, bring light
to the importance of nursing, teach effective nursing, and earn the respect of
others. Nightingale is an important contributor to modern nursing, and was able
to accomplish so much due to her resolve to reform healthcare. As she said,
"Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world
would never reach anything better" (Florence Nightingale).
Charlie, Deborah, and Charlie Deborah. "Florence Nightingale." Great Lives From History: The Nineteenth Century (2007): 1.Biography Reference Center. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.
"Florence Nightingale Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, 2014. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. .
Gorrell, Gena K. Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale. Toronto: Tundra, 2000. Print.
Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1992. Print.
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Last edited 4/14/2014 12:00:00 AM