Sunday, June 13, 2021
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"International Nurses Day"; Remembering Florence Nightingale-the First Professional Nurse

M Ahmad

"International Nurses Day" is celebrated on 12th May every year and serves to bring appreciation, awareness and promotion to the occupation of nursing all along to highlight the issues of Nurses. It is the birthday of Florence Nightingale, a famed British nurse known as the founder of nursing.

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), known as “The Lady With the Lamp,” was a British nurse, social reformer and statistician best known as the founder of modern nursing. She was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy in the family of Frances Nightingale and William Shore Nightingale. She was the younger of two children. From a very young age, Florence Nightingale was active in philanthropy, ministering to the ill and poor people in the village neighboring her family’s estate. By the time she was 16 years old, it was clear to her that nursing was calling her. When Nightingale approached her parents and told them about her ambitions to become a nurse, they were not pleased. In fact, her parents forbade her to pursue nursing. Determined to pursue her true calling despite her parents’ objections, in 1844, Nightingale enrolled as a nursing student at the Lutheran Hospital of Pastor Fliedner in Kaiserwerth, Germany.In the early 1850s, Nightingale returned to London, where she took a nursing job in a Middlesex hospital for ailing governesses. Her performance there so impressed her employer that Nightingale was promoted to superintendent within just a year of being hired. Nightingale made it her mission to improve hygiene practices, significantly lowering the death rate at the hospital in the process.

In October of 1853, the Crimean War broke out. The British Empire was at war against the Russian Empire for control of the Ottoman Empire and no fewer than 18,000 soldiers had been admitted into military hospitals.In late 1854, Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. Nightingale rose to her calling. She quickly assembled a team of 34 nurses from a variety of religious orders and sailed with them to the Crimea . In the hospital there were no good facilities for the injured. While in daytime she remained busy treating the injured soliders and in the evenings she moved through the dark hallways carrying a lamp while making her rounds, ministering to patient after patient. The soldiers, who were both moved and comforted by her endless services, took to calling her “the Lady with the Lamp.” Others simply called her “the Angel of the Crimea.” Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.In additional to vastly improving the sanitary conditions of the hospital, Nightingale created a number of patient services that contributed to improving the quality of their hospital stay. She instituted the creation of an “invalid’s kitchen” where appealing food for patients with special dietary requirements was cooked. She established a laundry so that patients would have clean linens. She also instituted a classroom and a library for patients’ intellectual stimulation and entertainment. Nightingale remained at Scutari for a year and a half. She left in the summer of 1856, once the Crimean conflict was resolved, and returned to her childhood home at Lea Hurst. To her surprise she was met with a hero’s welcome, which the humble nurse did her best to avoid. The Queen rewarded Nightingale’s work by presenting her with an engraved brooch that came to be known as the “Nightingale Jewel” and by granting her a prize of $250,000 from the British government.In 1908, at the age of 88, she was conferred the "Merit of Honor" by King Edward. In May of 1910, she received a congratulatory message from King George on her 90th birthday.She also received the Royal Red Cross in 1883, the Lady of Grace of the Order of St. John (LGStJ) in 1904. In August 1910, Florence Nightingale fell ill, but seemed to recover and was reportedly in good spirits. A week later, on the evening of Friday, August 12, 1910, she developed an array of troubling symptoms. She died unexpectedly at 2 p.m. the following day, Saturday, August 13, 1910, at her home in London.

She had expressed the desire that her funeral be a quiet and modest affair, despite the public’s desire to honor Nightingale. Respecting her last wishes, her relatives turned down a national funeral. The “Lady with the Lamp” was laid to rest in Hampshire, England.Florence Nightingale defined nursing as “the act of utilizing the environment of the patient to assist him in his recovery". Nightingale linked health with five environmental factors: 1. pure or fresh air, 2. pure water, 3. efficient drainage, 4. cleanliness and 5. light, especially sunlight. She believed that deficiencies in these five factors produce illness or a decline in health. Till date thse are the precondition and key factors for a Hygenic atmosphre for the "Modern Healthcare".

She turned nursing into a respectable profession for women.Even today, Florence continues to be recognized for her pioneering work. New nurses take the Nightingale Pledge, and the Florence Nightingale Medal, issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross beginning in 1912, is the highest international award that a nurse can achieve

Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses....we must be learning all of our lives.....Florence Nightingale

(The Writer is Principal(I/C), Abhedananda Home, Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled children, Solina, Rambagh, Srinagar, J&K email: [email protected])

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