Famous Women ~ Florence Nightingale

volunteer firefighters in ColoradoFlorence Nightingale is a name many of us know, but possibly don’t know why exactly her name is so familiar. Florence was born in Florence, Italy in 1820, a time when nursing was filled with untrained (and frequently drunk) women and the job was considered not much more than a menial chore. Nurses cleaned up the aftermath of illness, but didn’t do much medically speaking.

Florence Nightingale changed that. She was raised in England and received a classical education from her father. When she was 29, she travelled to the Continent to study the European hospital system and the next year began training in nursing at the Institute of Saint Vincent de Paul in Alexandria, Egypt. She excelled in nursing and prospered in her chosen career. After the Crimean War began in 1854, the British Secretary of War appointed her director of all nursing operations on the front. Nightingale went to the war with 38 nurses and began to completely overhaul the system. There was virtually no sanitation in the field hospitals and more soldiers died of infection than of their injuries. Florence improved sanitation and established efficient nursing departments throughout the war front. Because of her efforts, the mortality rate among the sick and wounded was significantly reduced.

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The Illustrated London News, February 24, 1855

After the war, Florence Nightingale founded the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses at Saint Thomas’ Hospital in London, marking the beginning of serious professional education for nurses. Because of her success in the Crimea, nursing was raised to a medical profession requiring education and involving serious responsibility.

She received many honors from foreign governments and in 1907 became the first woman to receive the British Order of Merit. She died in London on August 13, 1910. In 1915 the Crimean Monument in Waterloo Place, London, was erected in her honor. Her other accomplishments involve many writings including Notes on Nursing (1860), the first textbook for nurses, which was translated into many languages.

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