Florence Nightingale recognised that only with knowledge and skill could she help improve public health. Showing great courage and determination, she followed her calling.
When the Crimean War broke out in 1854, she oversaw the introduction of female nurses into the military hospitals in Turkey. Initially greeted with hostility, she took quick action to improve the deplorable conditions of the wounded, dramatically reducing mortality rates among soldiers from 40% to 2%.
While Nightingale is best known for her work during the war, some of her most valuable contributions came afterwards. She returned to England as a national heroine. However, she deliberately hid from public life and lived in seclusion where she worked non-stop. Her first major works were two books published in 1859, Notes on Hospital and Notes on Nursing, detailing her views on health care reform gained from her experience during the war.
She founded the Nightingale School and Home for Nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital , London in 1860, the first of its kind. The objective of the school was to produce nurses who could train others. The following year she established a training school for midwives in King's College Hospital.
Despite poor health which left her an invalid, Florence Nightingale worked tirelessly until her death at 90. As a passionate statistician, she conducted extensive research and analysis. She published over 200 reports and pamphlets on a wide range of issues including hygiene, hospital administration and design, midwifery and health care for the poor.
Florence Nightingale's influence on nursing continues. She personified many of the important ideas that are crucial to nursing today - values, vision and voice.
Her strong values influenced her work throughout her life. She saw nursing as helping people to live and promoted the importance of the nurse's integrity. She fought for health care for people regardless of faith or economic background.
Her vision completely changed society's approach to nursing. She understood the valuable contribution nurses could make in health care. She was committed to personalised care and saw that sensitivity to patient needs was key to recovery. She believed that it was important to look after an individual's health, mental and physical, as well as sickness, an idea well ahead of its time.
Her voice was strong and she served as an effective advocate on a number of important health issues, particularly for trained nursing and preventive health care through proper hygiene. She could be extremely persuasive and through her contacts in the government, she influenced public policy and achieved positive health care reforms.
Florence Nightingale still serves as a model for nurses today. With vision, values and voice, nurses care for all people, leading societies around the world toward better health.