Celebrating Florence Nightingale

National Nurses Week is held every year from May 6th-12th to honor Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing – and to celebrate the dedication and accomplishments of today’s nurses. The staff of the Williams Health Sciences Library joins Highland Hospital in wishing all nurses a Happy Nurses Week!

Born into a wealthy family, Florence Nightingale rebelled against tradition by following a calling about which she felt strongly – caring for the suffering.  Social and family rules dictated that she should marry, but she felt a commitment to nursing despite its reputation for being a career served by poor,  uneducated women. She was struck by the appalling medical conditions for the poor, and studied under nuns in Germany where she was impressed with their ability to provide better quality medical care as well as their commitment to caring for the sick.

Florence Nightingale is most well-known for her work during the Crimean War, where, in the mid-nineteenth century, she revolutionized patient care. Faced with an untenable situation, she replaced the existing model of care delivery with one that emphasized methods to decrease the incidence and spread of infection – and mortality rates were reduced from 40% to 2%. She devoted the remainder of her life developing and organizing the nursing profession, establishing schools and reforming hospital sanitation methods.

Nightingale’s philosophy is still evident in nursing today.  Her approach to patients was both holisitc and individualized. In her classic book, Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not, she wrote not only about nutrition and hygiene, but about the importance of making precise and accurate patient observations. She believed nurses should be “clear thinkers and independent in their judgments.”  (Bolton, 2006) She also believed in collecting and analyzing data – not just for the sake of recording, but to improve patient care! Research and evidence guided her practice; documenting care and evaluating the impact of changes were keys to her success. (Miracle, 2008)

Florence Nightingale deserves our gratitude for the intellect, courage and dedication which eased suffering and saved lives. And this week, in this spirit, we take special notice of nurses exhibiting these same qualities all around us.  So thank a nurse this week!

Be sure to stop by the library and check out our portrait of Florence Nightingale, painted by one of the Works Progress Administration’s artists in the 1930’s and donated to Highland Hospital by the Nursing Class of 1941. We also invite you to check out our archive display in honor of Nurses Week including memorabilia, photos, and yearbooks from Highland’s rich nursing history. The display will be on view Wednesday-Friday, May 6th -8th.

Bolton, K.  (2006). Nightingale’s Philosophy in Nursing Practice. In Alligood, M.R. & Tomey, A.M. Nursing Theory: Utilization & Application (3rd ed.). St. Louis: Elsevier Mosby, p. 91.

Miracle, V. A. (2008). The life and impact of Florence Nightingale. Dimensions in Critical Care Nursing, 27(1), 21-23.

Schulz, A.A. (2008). Evidence-Based Practice. Preface. Nursing Clinics of Nurth America, 44 (1), xv-xvii.

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One Response to Celebrating Florence Nightingale

  1. […] celebrates National Nurses Week May 6 through May 12th. The week ends on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, who was born on May 12th in 1820. During this week at Highland […]

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