Edhird's Blog

Restoring Health in the 21st Century

Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nursing

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By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Having worked at Vancouver General Hospital and Woodlands Hospital as a medical Social Worker, I have met many impressive nurses in my life. Recently a nurse lent me a book about the life of Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing. I was astounded by the pervasive lasting impact of Florence’s life. Florence was a one-woman dynamo. Nothing stood in her way. No inefficiency, no corruption, no bureaucracy could ultimately stop her from bringing healing to countless suffering people, particularly those impacted by war. While Florence was a caring individual, she was no ‘pushover’, but rather a brilliant, strong-minded professional, a gifted organizer and statistician. Florence was without a doubt one of the most influential women in the 19th century.

Florence Nightingale is someone who we can all learn from. I am concerned that cultural amnesia may rob us as Canadians of her inspiring story. While her story is still taught in British and South African schools, it is not to be found in the BC public School Curriculum.  Is this not a good time to reconsider Florence’s remarkable ongoing influence?

Florence Nightingale was baptized in the Church of England as an infant in Florence, Italy, where she was born in 1820.  As a child, Florence was very close to her anti-slavery lobbyist father who, without a son, treated her as his friend and companion.  Her father, William Nightingale, a wealthy English landowner, took responsibility for her education and personally taught her Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, history, philosophy and mathematics.

As a teenager, Florence was converted to Jesus Christ, writing in her diary: ‘God spoke to me and called me to His service’.  But sixteen years were to pass before her life changed to one of service.  Looking back years later, Florence commented: “the ‘Cornerstone’ book which converted me in 1836 –alas! That I should so little have lived up to my conversion.”  In her ‘Spiritual Journey’ Journal, Florence wrote: ‘O God, the Father of an infinite Majesty, give me Thy Holy Spirit twenty times a day to convince me of sin, of righteousness, above all to give me love, a real individual love for everyone.’

Florence’s mother, Fanny Nightingale was a domineering woman primarily concerned with finding her daughter a good husband.  She was therefore upset by Florence’s decision to reject offer of marriage by several suitors, including the well-connected Lord Houghton.  At age of twenty-five, Florence told her parents she wanted to become a nurse. Her parents were totally opposed to the idea, as nursing was associated with alcoholism and prostitution.

In 1851, thirty-one year-old Florence spent three months nursing at the Deaconess Institution at Kaiserswerth, Germany.  Upon returning to her family in England, Florence said: ‘I was treated as if I had come from committing a crime’.  When in 1853 Florence became a Nursing Superintendent in London, her parents wailed, wept, and refused to eat.

In 1854, Florence Nightingale took 38 “handmaidens of the Lord.” (as she called them) to nurse wounded British soldiers in the Crimean War. This was the first time the government had allowed women to do this. Almost all modern nursing systems and techniques we know today can be traced back to her. According to some reports, Florence suffered from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for the rest of her life.

The Crimean War was, Florence wrote, ‘calamity unparalleled in the history of calamity’.  She became famous as ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.  The wounded along the four miles of beds loved to see her, because she so obviously cared what was happening, and fought for better conditions for them.  One soldier wrote home that the men kissed her shadow on the wall when she passed.

Conditions in this so-called hospital in Scutari, Turkey, were appalling.   No operating tables. No medical supplies. No furniture.  The lack of beds, for example, meant that the best the wounded soldiers could hope for was to be laid on the floor wrapped in a blanket. Rats ran amongst the dying. On occasion, even dead bodies were forgotten about and left to rot.  There had been no washing of linen – and every shirt was crawling with vermin. Florence ordered boilers – and boilers were installed.  Florence was able to demonstrate that for every soldier killed in battle in the Crimean War, seven died of infections and preventable disease. Better food, cleanliness and good sanitation could prevent disease and death.

 Florence was exhausted, the life drained out of her by her struggles in the Crimea. She was only thirty-six, but she felt her work must surely be over.  In fact she had nearly forty years of active working life ahead of her. Although bedridden and unable to walk, she still campaigned tirelessly to improve health standards, publishing over 200 books, reports and pamphlets.  Her book ‘Notes on Nursing’ popularly ranked as one of the two most important scientific books of the 19th century.  One of the keys to Florence Nightingale’s success in improving health conditions was that she took numerous notes on aspects of health care and organized this information in order to analyze it, draw conclusions, and make appropriate changes. In her notes, she used graphical displays of information similar to what are now known as pie charts. She was recognized for her skill in interpreting large amounts of data and standardizing information such as the classification of disease so that different hospitals could compare their findings. As a result, Florence was the first woman to be elected a fellow of the Statistical Society and given the British Order of Merit.

In September 1856 Florence Nightingale received an invitation to visit Queen Victoria. Upon meeting, Queen Victoria complimented Florence, saying: “You have no self-importance or humbug.  No wonder the soldiers love you so.”  Queen Victoria never lost her awe of Florence Nightingale. To her, Florence was the bravest, most independent woman in the British Empire.

For Florence Nightingale, Jesus Christ was “the most important person that ever lived.” She kept a picture of Christ, crowned with thorns, in her bedroom.  The call to relieve suffering was such, said Florence, that we “dishonour Christ when we do not do our best to relieve suffering, even in the meanest creature.  Kindness to sick man, woman and child came in with Christ.”

In her journal, Florence recorded these thoughts: “Personal union with Jesus Christ; without this we are nothing. Father, give me this personal union. Come in, Lord Jesus, come into my heart now. There is no room. Each day more and more of this new year, 1895, and may it be a better and a happier year than any before. So help me/us God!”

Let us give thanks for the life and work of Florence Nightingale, pioneer nurse and handmaid of the Lord who has brought health and healing for countless millions.

 

 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-previously published in the North Shore News

-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

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Author: Dr Ed Hird

I am the Rector of St. Simon's Church North Vancouver, B.C., having served there since 1987. Ordained in 1980, I have also served at St. Philip's Vancouver and St. Matthew's Abbotsford. My wife Janice and I have three sons James, Mark, and Andrew. I am the National Chaplain and Past President for Alpha Canada. I once served as the National Chair for Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada, during which I was one of three co-signers of the Montreal Declaration of Anglican Essentials http://www3.telus.net/st_simons/arm05.htm For the past 23 years, I have been privileged to write over 280 articles as a columnist on spiritual issues for local North Vancouver newspapers. In the last number of years, I have had the opportunity to lead conferences and retreats in Honduras, Washington State, BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, and Toronto. In order to obtain a copy of the new book 'Battle for the Soul of Canada', please send a $18.50 cheque to 'Ed Hird', #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. For more info, please click on www3.telus.net/st_simons/nsnews030.html

24 thoughts on “Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nursing

  1. i enjoy to read about the mother of nursing please more work/

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  4. cool!I enjoy 2 hear about Florence Nightingale

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  5. service begins here

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  8. I am married to an English nurse. I can understand the depth of feeling and intense dedication that comes with the nursing profession. God gave us Florence to make it a profession, and now life is so much better for that. Praise the Lord!!

    - Larry

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  10. I have just presented this account to our School Chapel. All Saints’ College Bathurst. NSW Australia.
    Chaplain, Paul Woodhart

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  15. I love dis woman and i enjoy the pags

    Like this

  16. A career in this type of nursing can be very rewarding and with training
    and qualifications you can expect to be paid well for your knowledge and skills.
    That’s 2 years and 8 months instead of 4 years, and you are more qualified for a variety of nursing jobs (since you have already worked in the field). Finally, recently there has been a surge of LPN schools opening up online.

    Like this

  17. Good day! This post could not be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate!
    He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post
    to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Like this

  18. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d certainly donate to this brilliant blog! I suppose for now i’ll
    settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to new updates and will talk about this blog with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

    Like this

  19. Superb site you have here but I was wondering if you knew
    of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really love to be a part of online community where I can get responses from other experienced individuals that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thanks!

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  20. I wish to read and learn more about the mother of nursing and God should give me the Grace,Strength and Power to do more than she did.AMEN

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  22. Well done, Ed. Well written post about a blessed woman who dedicated her life to servanthood in the field of medicine. I hope to write a children’s book on both her and Elizabeth Blackwell one day soon. Elizabeth and Florence shared a mutual friendship and cause as they did make some initial plans for women’s education in the medical field. Very interesting. Thanks, Ed.

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