Florence Nightingale was a nurse during the mid-1800′s to the early-1900′s. Nightingale is regarded as the founder of modern nursing. Through her encouragement of sanitation and cleanliness, she sparked a worldwide healthcare reform. Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820 to an affluent family. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, she found solace in caring for the weak and ill. While her parents wanted her to marry rich and elevate the familial social status, she had other plans. Nightingale realized she wanted to pursue a career in nursing. Her parents were dissatisfied when she declined a marriage proposal from a wealthy man to follow her true calling. When faced with familial opposition, Florence Nightingale fell ill and was nursed to health by her aunt. Florence became devoted to said aunt, and described their relationship as “Like two lovers.” Florence Nightingale also was very close to her cousin, Marianne Nicholson. Florence said, “I have never loved but one person with passion in my life, and that was her,” in relation to Nicholson. When Nicholson’s brother proposed to Nightingale and she refused, the two women had a falling out.
After she was back to health, she enrolled as a nursing student at Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserswerth, Germany in 1844. Upon finishing her education in the early 1850′s, she moved to England for a nursing job in Middlesex. Her superiors were impressed by her nursing skills, leading to her promotion to superintendent of the hospital within a year.
In 1853, the Crimean War broke out. Military hospitals began to fill quickly, and were soon overfilled with patients. Due to a bad reputation of women, female nurses were not common in these hospitals. Nightingale, however, was soon asked by the English Secretary of War to lead a nursing corps for the betterment of these hospitals. Nightingale immediately saw the horrid conditions the wounded were being subjected to and made rapid reforms. She called for better sanitation of hospitals and set up a laundry so the patients would have clean linens. She also set up schooling and libraries for the intellectual stimulation of the patients.
After the war, Nightingale went on to write Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army, an 830-page report analyzing her experience and proposing reforms for other military hospitals operating under poor conditions. She also funded the establishment of the St. Thomas Hospital, which held the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. Because of the work she did, nursing was no longer frowned upon by the middle class, but seen as an honorable position.
Florence Nightingale passed away of natural causes on Saturday, August 13, 1910 in London. Throughout her life, she never once accepted a marriage proposal from a man, and seemed truly devoted to the women in her life. Even over 100 years after her death, she is still regarded as one of the best nurses of all time.
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