Free Essay On Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale Essay

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820. She is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. She was a victorian women and in the era in which she lived it was almost impossible to gain any recognition as a scholar and an expert in her field. She accomplished this feat with the use of power. The purpose of this paper is to explore the avenues of power that she used in order to cause the changes in nursing that she believed were so important.

When Nightingale was a child, she fought with her mother for the right to study mathmatics. Her mother held firm to the belief that girls were only supposed to study poetry and philosophy, this would give them the background to make a good bride and be able to hold intelligent conversasions at parties. Nightingale fough against this and finally convinced her father to allow her to study mathmatics. When she turned of age, she again shocked her family by enrolling in a nursing program at Kaiserworth, Germany. Most people believed that a nurses role should only be filled by common women and prostitutes. Nighingale made it a personal priority to change this image( Baly,57).


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She spent three years in Germany training to become a nurse, after this she recruited a small number of untrained women and took them to a British military hospital in Scutari, where she trained them and taught them her philosophies of nursing. She believed that fresh air, water and sunshine were critical to the recovery of her patients. Efficiant drainage of wounds, cleanliness and a healthy diet were extremely important, in the days when these methods were not taught. She beleived that moving a patients bed to 3 give them a better view was a nurses responsibility, along with the responsibility to provide a healthy diet and to record what was eaten daily. Her emphasis on cleanliness of bed linens and patients was scoffed at by the medical profession but proved to be an innovation for the medical field in the future. She always held nurses responsible for the health of their patients, this included not only cleanliness, but also the environment in which the patients were healing. Noisy hallways and rooms were not allowed. Unruly family members would be asked to leave. She believed that if she changed a patients environment she could eventually bring about changes in the patient( Chitty, 250 ).

It has often been said that Nightingale refused to accept the germ theory, this theory stated that all illness came directly from germs. Florence Nightingale believed in germs she just added to this theory by explaining that germs were not the only thing that caused illness. Over and over again her letters and essays laid down the law about the sterilization of instruments, in order to kill germs, however, she also believed that the environment of the patient played a crucial part in the healing process and that this factor should never be overlooked.

Sterilization and aseptic technique came slowly to London. In 1886, steam sterilization of dressings was pioneered in Germany and sterile rubber gloves for operations were first used in 1890. But as late as 1933 there were still surgeons that still performed abdominal surgery “ the aniseptic way, dousing bare hands, swabs and instruments with lysoform and often smoking cigarretes while performing surgery”(Cope,168). Nightingale taught her nurses that this method was incorrect and insisted that the nurses under her instruction uses a correct method.

By the time Nightingale composed her polar area diagram she had extensive knowledge in nursing and mathmatics. It was this knowledge that her power in the nursing community was based on. After training in Germany and spending some time nursing the wounded in the Crimean war he had made extensive political contacts and these also played a role in her political power. She used the contacts to no only improve the medical fielsd but also to critsize them. It was her critical nature that made her the enemy of many doctors and medical communities.

After the war Nightingale realized that many soldiers had died not of there original wounds but from nocosomial infections.It was at this time that she decided to use her power to change some things in the medical field. Her political contacts did not always agree with her, especially if her knowledge seemed to upset traditions that were held in the medical field. As explained earlier, she believed that the environment played an essintial role in the body’s ability to heal. If an environment was not clean the germs and bacteria would grow and contaminate the body. This was a direct contradiction to the beliefs that were held by the majority of doctors(Goldie,74).

Nightingale founded the first school of nursing that based it’s ideas and education on her methods. It was in this way that her knowledge and power had a major influence on nurses everywhere. Most nursing schools are based on her model and subsequently hold on to her beliefs that environment plays such a huge role in the body’s healing abilities. Time and time again the medical community tried to hush Nightingale, but through her political contacts she was able to make her ideas known.

Her mathmatics abilities provided her the knowledge to compose the first statistical analysis of the medical community. In her Polar- area diagram, she meticulosly plotted all deaths resulting form nocosomial infection. It was officially known as the Diagram of the causes of Mortality in the Army in the East. It showed that most of the deaths of British soldiers in the Crimean war died of sickness rather than wounds suffered on the battle field. It also showed that the death rate was higher in the first year of the war, than after the sanitary commisioners changed their policies and gave inspections to improve hygiene in the camps and in the hospitals(Smith,139).

The government would not allow her to publish he most damning statistics which showed that hospital conditions were the main cause of death, but through her political contats she was allowed to publish the diagram. She tried to support her case for better hygine by using the published army figures to show that the death rate decreased after the sanitary commision cleaned up the hospitals. However, her opponents claimed that the reduction in the death rate resulted from other changes that were made at the same time(Smith,158).

Florence Nightingale’s knowledge and power in the medical field changed the way nursing is done today. Her political influence and power were directly based on her knowledge and experience of the subject. Eventhough her contributions were not recognized at the time, they are understood now and appreciated by nurses all over the world. We, as nursing students have her to thank for changing the atitudes held about nursing and and or introducing the idea that germs are not the only thing that causes infections and that we, as nurses, have a responsibility toward our patients to not only insure a clean environment, but a well lit, and peaceful and comfortable surrounding.


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Florence Nightingale

“Florence Nightingale is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. For most of her ninety years Nightingale pushed for reform of the British military health- care system and with that the profession of nursing started to gain the respect it deserved. Unknown to many, however, was her use of new techniques of statistical analysis, such as during the Crimean War when she plotted the incidence of preventable deaths in the military. She developed the “polar-area diagram” to dramatize the needless deaths caused by unsanitary conditions and the need for reform.  ”.

Florence Nightingale was born in Italy on May 123, 1820 and was named Florence after the city where she was born. Her parents, William Edward and Frances Nightingale were a wealthy couple who had toured Europe for two years on their honeymoon. During their travels their fist daughter, Parthenope, was born in Naples (Parthenope being the Greek name for the ancient city), followed one year later by Florence. On returning to England the Nightingales divided their time between two homes. In the summer months they lived at Lea Hurst in Derbyshire, moving to Embley in Hampshire for the winter. Lea Hurst is now a retirement home and Embley as a School.

Florence and Parthenope were taught at home by their Cambridge University educated father. Florence was an academic child while her sister excelled at painting and needlework. Florence grew up to be a lively and attractive young woman, admired in the family’s social circle and she was expected to make a good marriage, but Florence had other concerns. In 1837, whilst in the gardens at Embley, Florence had what she described as her ‘calling’. Florence heard the voice of God calling her to do his work but at this time she had no idea what that work would be.

Florence developed an interest in the social questions of the day, made visits to the homes of the sick in the local villages and began to investigate hospitals and nursing. Her parents refused to allow her to become a nurse as in the mid-nineteenth century it was not considered a suitable profession for a well educated woman. While the family conflicts over Florence’s future remained unresolved it was decided that Florence would tour Europe with some family friends, Charles and Sehna Bracebridge. The three travelled to Italy, Egypt and Greece, returning in July 1850 through Germany where they visited Pastor Theodor Fliedner’s hospital and school for deaconesses Kaiserswerth, near Dusseldorf. The following year Florence Nightingale retuned to Kasiserswerth and undertook three months nursing training which enabled her to take a vacancy as Superintendent of the Establishment for Gentlewomen during illness at No. 1 Harley Street, London in 1853.

In March 1854 Britain, France and Turkey declared war on Russia. The allies defeated the Russians at the battle of the Alma in September but reports in the Times criticized the British medical facilities for the wounded. In response, Sidney Herbert, the Minister at War, who knew Florence Nightingale socially and through her work at Harley Street, appointed her to oversee the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. On 4 November 1854, Florence Nightingale arrived at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, a suburb on the Asian side of Constantinople, with the party of 38 nurses. Initially the doctors did not want the nurses there and did not ask for their help but within ten days fresh casualties arrived from the battle of Inkermann and the nurses were fully stretched.

The ‘Lady-in-Chief’, as Florence was called, wrote home on behalf of the soldiers. She acted as a banker, sending the men’s wages home to their families, and introduced reading rooms to the hospital./ in return she gained the undying respect of outstanding success and to show the nations’ gratitude for Florence Nightingale’s hard work a public subscription was organised in November 1855. The money collected was to enable Florence Nightingale to continue her reform of nursing in the civil hospitals of Britain.

When Florence Nightingale returned from the Crimean War in August 1856, four months after the peace treaty was signed, she hid herself away from the public’s attention. In November 1856 Miss Nightingale took a hotel room in London which became the centre for the campaign for a Royal Commission to investigate the health of the British Army. When Sidney Herbert was appointed Chairman, she continued as a driving force behind the scenes.

For her contribution to Army statistics and comparative hospital statistics in 1860 Florence Nightingale became the first woman to be elected a fellow of the Statistical Society. In 1865, she settled at 10 South Street, Mayfair, in the West End of London and apart from occasional visits to Embley, Lea Hurst and to her sister at Claydon House she lived there until her death.

Florence Nightingale’s greatest achievement was to raise nursing to the level of a respectable profession for women. In 1860, with the public subscriptions of the Nightingale fund, she established the Florence Nightingale Training School for nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital. Mrs. Sarah Wardroper, Matorn at St. Thomas’, became the head of the new school. The probationer nurses received a year’s training which included some lectures but was mainly practical ward work under the supervision of the ward sister. “Miss Nightingale “, as she was always called by the nurses, scrutinized the probationers’ ward diaries and reports.

From 1872 Florence Nightingale devoted closer attention to the organisation of the School and almost annually for the next thirty years she wrote an open letter to the nurses and probationers giving advice and encouragement. On completion of training Florence Nightingale gave the nurses books and invited them to tea. Once trained the nurses were sent to staff hospitals in Britain and abroad and to establish nursing training schools on the Nightingale model. In 1860 her best known work, Notes on Nursing, was published. It laid down the principles of nursing, careful observation and sensitivity to the patient’s needs. Notes on Nursing were translated into eleven foreign languages and is still in print today.

Florence Nightingale’s writings on hospital planning and organisation had a profound effect in England and across the world. Miss Nightingale was the principal advocate of the ‘pavilion’ plan for hospitals in Britain.

Like her friend, the public health reformer Edwin Chadwick, Florence Nightingale believed that infection arose spontaneously in dirty and poorly ventilated places. This mistaken belief nevertheless led to improvements in hygiene and healthier living and working environments. Florence Nightingale also advised and supported William Rathbone in the development of district nursing in Liverpool many Nightingale trained nurses became pioneers in this field.

Although Florence Nightingale was bedridden for many years, she campaigned tirelessly to improve health standard, publishing 200 books, reports and pamphlets. In recognition of her hard work Queen Victoria awarded Miss Nightingale the Royal Red Cross in 1883. In her old age she received many honours, including the Order of Merit (1907) becoming the first woman to receive it. Florence Nightingale died at home at the age of 90 on 13 August 1910 and according to her wishes she was buried at St. Margaret’s, East Wellow, near her parent’s home, Embley Park in Hampshire. Karl Pearson acknowledge Nightingale as a “prophetess” in the development of applied statistics.

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