Florence Nightingale was born in 1820, the daughter of well-off and well-connected parents. Her parents and society had expectations for the way she would grow up and spend her adult life – but Florence was determined to be different. As a child she was exceptionally intelligent, and at the age of seventeen she began to believe she was called to the service of God in some way or another. However, the next five years of her life comprised foreign travel. She returned to England in 1842 to find a country in the grip of an economic depression, where poverty, starvation and disease were manifest and widespread. She upset her family and friends by opting out of the social life she was expected to enjoy, turning down offers of marriage, and ultimately deciding that her vocation lay in hospital work and in helping sick people. In the 1840s the only qualification required for nursing the sick was to be a woman. Nursing was not perceived to be a worthy occupation for Florence. No skills or training were required; the women nurses were frequently drunk and an occasional prostitute with the male patients. Her parents were horrified and opposed her choice. Nevertheless, Florence was determined and persistent. Whilst caring for sick members of her family and their friends, she started studying both medicine and administration. After the Crimean War she initially withdrew from public life and devoted herself to taking her campaign to senior politicians and the Royal Family. Afterwards she was again active in the establishment of new civilian hospitals and training schools for civilian nurses. In essence, her work and inspiration provided the foundation for the modern nursing profession. The entrepreneur character themes of dedication, focus, courage, opportunity-taking and picking good people are clear in this short commentary on her life.
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