Famous for her work in the military hospitals of the Crimea, Nightingale established nursing as a respectable profession for women.
Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820, and named after the Italian city of her birth. Her wealthy parents were in Florence as part of a tour of Europe. In 1837, Nightingale felt that God was calling her to do some work but wasn’t sure what that work should be. She began to develop an interest in nursing, but her parents considered it to be a profession inappropriate to a woman of her class and background, and would not allow her to train as a nurse. They expected her to make a good marriage and live a conventional upper class woman’s life.
Nightingale’s parents eventually relented and in 1851, she went to Kaiserwerth in Germany for three months nursing training. This enabled her to become superintendent of a hospital for gentlewomen in Harley Street, in 1853. The following year, the Crimean War began and soon reports in the newspapers were describing the desperate lack of proper medical facilities for wounded British soldiers at the front. Sidney Herbert, the war minister, already knew Nightingale, and asked her to oversee a team of nurses in the military hospitals in Turkey. In November 1854, she arrived in Scutari in Turkey. With her nurses, she greatly improved the conditions and substantially reduced the mortality rate
She returned to England in 1856. In 1860, she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Once the nurses were trained, they were sent to hospitals all over Britain, where they introduced the ideas they had learned, and established nursing training on the Nightingale model. Nightingale’s theories, published in ‘Notes on Nursing’ (1860), were hugely influential and her concerns for sanitation, military health and hospital planning established practices which are still in existence today. She died on 13 August 1910.