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Florence Nightingale was a British nurse and social reformer who became the most popular woman to ever work in the nursing profession. Also known as the "lady with the lamp", Nightingale was instrumental in assisting injured British troops during the Crimean War of the early 19th century and laid the foundation of modern nursing. She volunteered with other nurses to tend to the wounded soldiers at night using a lamp.
Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, in the Italian city of Florence, and was named after the city. She was the second daughter of William Edward Nightingale and Frances Nightingale. During her childhood, Florence Nightingale was a bright student and excelled in languages and mathematics. She could read and write several foreign languages including German, Greek, and Latin.
Despite encountering considerable resistance from her family, Florence managed to become educated in the nursing profession at the Institution of Protestant of Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth in Germany from 1850 to 1851. In the institution, she obtained basic nursing skills, learned the importance of observing patients and the benefit of a proper hospital organization. After her training, Nightingale returned to Britain and worked at the Institution for Sick Gentlewomen in Distressed Circumstances (governesses) where she became the superintendent. However, she felt that her services would be more valuable in an institution that would allow her to train other nurses. She thought of becoming a superintendent of nurses at the Kings College hospital in London, but politics were to change her next move. 1853, the Ottoman Empire declared war on Russia which forced the French and the British to aid the Ottoman Empire in its campaign and therefore starting the Crimean War. The war brought with it many British casualties which the British media reported as lack of access to adequate medical care. Secretary of state at war for the British government Sidney Herbert requested Nightingale to lead a group of nurses to the Scutari.
Florence Nightingale and her group of volunteer nurses arrived in Scutari on November, 5th and found the hospital in a deplorable state with inadequate health supplies and the wards filthy and severely overcrowded. Immediately, using funds from the London Times, Nightingale bought enough medical supplies for the camp and worked on improving the sanitation of the hospital. Nightingale was responsible for the reduction of the mortality rate at the barrack hospital down to 2%, a feat which made her extremely popular in England through the media and the letters from the soldiers. The Crimean War ended in March 1856, but Florence stayed on treating the wounded and only left Scutari in August 1856 after all hospitals were ready to close.
While at the Scutari Barracks Hospital, Florence Nightingale met resistance from the army health officers. While at the camp, Nightingale also encountered a personal setback after she contracted what is believed to be brucellosis which confined her to bed for extended periods of time.
Death and Legacy
Florence Nightingale continued to conduct her social reformist duties all over Europe and died in her sleep on August 13, 1910, at age 90. She was buried at St Margaret’s Church in Hampshire. Florence Nightingale left a rich legacy including the establishment of the first secular nursing school in St. Thomas Hospital. The Florence Nightingale Medal was created in her honor and is the highest distinction any nurse can achieve. Her birthday is celebrated as the International Nurses Day all over the world.
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