Florence Nightingale was born 200 years ago and is revered as the mother of nursing as she revolutionized the concept of modern nursing.
Her endeavors, including the training for the nurses during the war, saved many lives of the injured soldiers. Though the concept did not entirely convince her that micro-organisms cause illness, she realized the significance of washing hands frequently.
In her book “Notes on Nursing (1860),” she writes: “Every nurse should wash her hands frequently, and it’s better if she washes her face too.”
During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Nightingale implemented the system of hygiene, including hand-washing in the Military Hospitals in England. At that time, it was a novel proposition that was first popularized by a Hungarian doctor, Ignaz Semmelweis, in the 1840s. The innovation saw a dramatic decline in death during child-birth.
The extraordinary capabilities of Nightingale in the field of health was just one aspect that drew global attention and research. Like many of her contemporaries, Nightingale, too, believed that home was one of the breeding grounds for illnesses.
Undoubtedly, “Notes on Nursing” is more than a nursing manual; it is a comprehensive book on healthcare. The book suggests the people, particularly women, to ensure hygiene at their homes.
Other precautionary measures include the ways to avoid excessive smoke from the fireplaces, besides suggestions for safe material for the walls.
Nightingale also advised the people to keep the windows open to allow more and more light and air to pass the stagnant air in the unventilated homes. She also recommended improving water flow to prevent water-borne diseases such as typhoid and diarrhea.
Florence Nightingale said, “The dusty carpet or furniture contaminates the air as the pile of feces in a basement.”
About health, Nightingale presented a broader viewpoint, like she induced the rehabilitating soldiers to read, write, and take social activities in order to distract them from drinking or boredom.
Nightingale, A Statistician
During her schooling, Nightingale opted to take statistics, a newly introduced subject in her time. Afterward, in 1858, she became the first woman member of the Royal Statistical Society. Her leading principle was that the best way to tackle health issues is through taking accurate measurements.
In 1858, a year after she returned from the Crimean war, Nightingale contracted a severe illness, something like the flu. The illness remained her life-long companion and often made her unable to walk or even move from her bed.
After being declared physically-impaired, she imposed self-isolation due to extreme pain and fatigue.
During this time, besides writing “Notes on Nursing,” she also wrote a 900-word long wrote depicting medical failures during the Crimean war.
In 1860, she founded the “Nightingale Training School” for nurses in London’s Saint Thomas Hospital. A year later, she initiated a training program for midwives at King College Hospital. At the end of the 1860s, Nightingale also proposed reforms for Nightingale Work House Infirmaries, in addition to bringing social reforms in India.
All the reforms she introduced while staying in self-isolation at home, though government officials would often come to meet her.
During the pandemic days, when we are at home and feel left alone and find little things to keep ourselves busy, it is the time to recall Florence Nightingale. We can still do something for the welfare of the people around us.