On This Day: The Lady with the Lamp

Florence Nightingale, born May 12, 1820, is remembered for her groundbreaking work as a nurse during the Crimean War and her tireless efforts to reform healthcare in Victorian England. Her legacy has had a lasting impact on nursing and public health around the world.

In 1854, Britain and France went to war with Russia over the Ottoman Empire. The British army sent a group of nurses to the front lines to care for wounded soldiers, and Florence Nightingale was among them. When she arrived in Turkey, she was shocked by the conditions in the hospital. It was overcrowded and unsanitary, and there was a lack of basic medical supplies. Nightingale immediately set to work organizing the hospital and introducing basic sanitation measures, such as washing and disinfecting equipment. She also insisted on better clothing and food for the patients.

Nightingale was known for her tireless work ethic and her ability to inspire her fellow nurses. She often worked long hours, walking around the hospital at night with a lamp, comforting patients and checking on their condition. This led to her being called “the lady with the lamp.”

After the war, Nightingale returned to England a hero. Her work had saved countless lives, and she had become a symbol of hope and compassion. She received numerous honors, including the Royal Red Cross, however, she was not content to stop there. She witnessed the suffering and disease plaguing Victorian England and determined to do something about it, becoming an advocate for public health and healthcare reform.

Nightingale pushed for improvements in sanitation and housing, frequently speaking at conferences and meetings on the topic. Greatly interested in statistical modeling, she championed the use of such to illustrate the efficacity of her methods. She also established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. This was the first professional nursing school, and it set the standard for nursing education.

Nightingale’s work revolutionized the field of nursing and set the stage for modern public health. At the time of her death, the New York Times wrote that “not even the death of a royal personage could have called forth more universal expressions of regret and tributes of love and affection than appear in the English papers” (2).

To learn more, start here:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/health/florence-nightingales-wisdom.html
  2. https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0512.html