Lady with a Lamp: Reflections on the Life and Impact of Florence Nightingale

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Lady with a Lamp: Reflections on the Life and Impact of Florence Nightingale Introduction

“A lady with a lamp shall stand in the great history of the land,” proclaimed Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1857) in his poem “Santa Filomena.” Wadsworth was, of course, reflecting upon the great many contributions to society made by Florence Nightingale. How prophetic that simple phrase would come to be. So insightful are those words, that even today, 150 years later, the world continues to reflect upon the life of Miss Nightingale and the impact she had on the profession of nursing and health reform.purpose of paper, points to be covered in the paper?

The reflections of Nightingale in history books record her as the first true professional nurse. Known as the “Matriarch of Modern Nursing,” (Pfettsher, as cited in Toomey & Alligood, 2001), Nightingale’s accomplishments include establishing the value of nursing in improving patient outcome, establishing the first school of nursing, and of course writing her now famous, “Notes on Nursing.” Nightingale “spent many years fighting for public policy reform related to health” (Hawks, 2002). Her impact on the care of wounded soldiers during the Crimean War is well documented. Additionally, the field of nursing recognizes Miss Nightingale as the “creative founder of modern nursing and its first nursing theorist” (Pfettsher, as cited in Toomey & Alligood, 2002). These facts are generally known.

There are many less known facets to Miss Nightingale’s life. Florence was born May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy, “in the midst of the so called ‘Dark Period of Nursing’’’ (Bristol, 2002). She was named after the city of her birth. Her parents, affluent British citizens, William Edward and Frances, maintained two homes. One home was near London, and afforded the family the opportunity to enjoy the British social seasons of that era. William, a Cambridge University graduate, took it upon himself to educate his two daughters. Such subjects such as mathematics and philosophy were included in their studies. Florence was by far the academic child. At an early age, it was readily apparent that Florence had “an ability to grasp and analyze immense complexity and present her findings in a succinct and lucid style” (Hawks, 2002). This would prove to be an invaluable trait in later years.

Throughout Florence’s extensive writings, she often reflected on her entrance into the field of nursing. In 1837, while in the gardens of the family’s Embley estate, she “heard the voice of God calling to do his work” (Florence Nightingale, website UK, 2002). Florence began to focus her concern on social issues. She made sick visits to the homes of local villagers. This led her to investigate nursing and hospital care. Because nursing was considered unsuitable for a well-educated woman, Florence’s family forbade her from entering nursing. In 1850, and against her family’s wishes, she began her month training as a nurse in Kaiserwerth. Three years later, she became the Superintendent for Gentlewomen during Illness in London.

The Crimean War began in 1854. The Minister of War received heavy criticism over the treatment of wounded British soldiers. Stung by the criticism, and being aquainted with Florence and her family, he appointed Florence to oversee the introduction of female nurses in military hospitals. Arriving in Turkey in November of 1854, Florence and 38 nurses were met with much scorn and resistance. The nurses quickly proved their value. Florence, known for making rounds at all hours of the day, thus became known, as the “Lady with a Lamp.” Her hard work earned the undying gratitude and respect of the soldiers.

So successful was Florence and her nurses, that in 1855, a public subscription was initiated to enable Florence to continue her reforms in civilian hospitals. In 1856, Florence was appointed the Female Establishment of the Military Hospitals of the Army. It was in this position...
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