May 12, 1820 - August 13, 1910
Christian Nurse in Turkey, Crimea, and Great Britainby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Although there were several women who have become famous throughout history, no one would exceed Florence Nightingale in their devotion to the world. Also known as the "Lady of the Lamp", Nightingale was a determined nurse who influenced a lot of the patients as well as the medical people when working in Turkey, Crimea, and Great Britain. She was certainly one of the most faithful Christians who put into action the mission that God had assigned her.
Nightingale's life started on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy, under the roof of William Edward Nightingale and Frances Smith. However, her parents being from England, the little girl grew up in places such as Derbyshire, Hampshire, and London, all belonging to Great Britain. Her family was wealthy enough to provide her all the things that a girl of a high class would like to have. Since her only sibling was an older sister, Florence Nightingale enjoyed much visiting her cousins, aunts, and uncles; she also spent wonderful days with the governess, especially Miss Christie, learning mainly about the Bible. The little girl's closer acquaintance with the Word of God commenced when she first met Miss Christie at the age of seven. Other than the governess's teachings, Nightingale also received education from her father. Having no sons, Mr. Nightingale was one of the people whom his daughter admired the most; he taught her so many subjects such as Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, history, philosophy, and mathematics. There was no reason why Florence Nightingale could not have been a well-educated, intelligent, and kind nurse.
While in the age of seventeen, the young lady strongly believed that she had heard God speaking to her, as if a mission were assigned to a wealthy teenage girl. Nightingale thought that God must have had a great purpose when calling her to Him and realized nine years later what He did. Although having refused the proposal of several men, the future nurse continued her bright, luminous life ahead by starting to acquire knowledge about medicine. Medicine certainly was not one of the most attractive areas for women at that time. If Nightingale began in her early 20's studying about diseases and taking care of the sick, then she would be considered a woman in a working class. Even though her parents strongly objected the idea of a wealthy girl working on the filthy people, she never gave up persuading her father as well as her mother. Finally, she was permitted to study in the institution she was interested in, the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses at Kaiserswerth, Germany, at the age of thirty-one. Afterwards, Nightingale was appointed as the superintendent of the Institution for the Care of Sick Gentlewomen, London; this was just the beginning of her career as a nurse.
Nightingale's mission became clear when the Crimean War broke out in March 1854; many British as well as French troops arrived at Crimea. Hearing the news about British soldiers being horribly killed and wounded, England decided to send nurses to the war places. At once, Nightingale volunteered and headed towards Turkey with thirty-eight nurses; being in charge of the group of volunteers, the devoted woman exhausted all of her effort to help the military hospitals in Turkey, mainly in Scutari. The scenes of the wounded soldiers in dirty wards with rats and fleas made Nightingale astonished. No blanket was available for the patients, the food seemed to make one vomit, and uniforms that were "stiff with dirt and gore" were still worn on the soldiers. Moreover, typhus and cholera roamed the wards increasing the death rate of the patients. The doctors were not hospitable to the newly-arrived nurses and did not allow them to enter; so, Nightingale protested to the medical people and finally, through the help of an editor of newspaper, the determined lady was able to work in the barracks hospital after the Battle of Inkerman when numerous hurt soldiers came in swarming. Nightingale first started to scrub the place and wash the clothes of the patients. She never questioned her mission. Even though some of the nurses were sent back to England for their disobedience, Nightingale continued to take care of every patient in the hospital, making sure that he was comfortable and no problem was going on. She also attended patients who needed her advice. Walking in the night, the soldiers soon called the faithful nurse as the "Lady with the Lamp."
Worried about the sick in Crimea, Nightingale decided to move to the place with some of the nurses. Unlike in Turkey, she had less control in the hospital than before, but unfortunately, she caught the Crimean fever and was not welcomed by the doctors. However, she was able take over again in Balaklava hospital. Later on, Nightingale returned to England and was surprised to have become a national heroine; she was also astonished of seeing the British army in bad conditions. So, in October 1856, she conversed with Queen Victoria, Prince Consort, and Lord Panmure who gave order of creating royal commissions. One of these commissions led to the establishment of a Sanitary Department in the Indian government. As she was given £45,000 by the people in England, the heroine used the money to found, at St. Thomas's Hospital, the Nightingale School and Houses for Nurses, the first nursing school in the world. The renowned nurse taught people like her at workhouses. From 1857, Nightingale had been an invalid suffering from a chronic illness; then, in 1901, she became totally blind. In 1907, the King of England granted to her the Order of Merit, being the first woman ever to receive it; afterwards, in August 13, 1910, she died in London. Her coffin was carried to the churchyard in East Wellow, Hampshire by six sergeants of the British Army.
Devoted and humble, Nightingale was able to enforce her mission in Crimea, Turkey, and England. With the lamp at night she lighted the hearts of the soldiers in the hospital. God sent someone like her to open up the minds as well as the spirits of people in the world; being a good example of what a Christian should be, Florence Nightingale was one of the servants of God who used all of their effort to help those around them.
- "Nightingale, Florence." The New Encylopaedia Britannica. 1986, Vol. 8, pp. 705-706.
- Wellman, Sam. Florence Nightingale, Lady with the Lamp. Barbour Publishing, Inc. Uhrichsville, Ohio.