Military nurses have become a symbol of the human capacity to make sacrifices and take life threatening risks to care for others. It is this selflessness that makes them true heroes to be honoured.
As Britain recently marked the 100th anniversary of Armistice, we should remember the contributions of all those involved, especially that of the nurses who played such a critical role healing soldiers and civilians alike.
Our namesake Florence Nightingale, though she died before World War One, was one of the most famous wartime nurses due to her service in the Crimean War and her influence on nursing practices in the World War to come.
She is celebrated around the world as the founder of modern nursing, and left her distinct mark on nursing by emphasising the importance of sanitation and quality of care for wounded soldiers.
In honour of nurses everywhere, we'd like to reflect on her extraordinary life—one that saved countless others.
So here are some things you might not have known about Florence Nightingale.
1. She chose to become a nurse despite the stigma
Unfortunately, nursing wasn’t at all a respected profession in Florence Nightingale’s time.
Generally, it was considered a low class job, and was associated with alcoholism and prostitution in the 1800s.
So, when a young Nightingale announced that she felt a calling to become a nurse, her family tried to stop her from pursuing a nursing career, believing it was beneath someone of their relatively high social status.
But in 1850, at the age of 30, she finally started learning the craft despite their objections and practiced nursing for several years.
Three years later, Nightingale was appointed superintendent of a women's Hospital in Harley Street.
2. Her nickname was “Lady with the Lamp”
When Florence Nightingale arrived at a British field hospital with her team during the Crimean War, the injured soldiers were so grateful for the quality of care they received that she became a beloved figure.
She was known for walking through the hospital wards to check on her patients at night with her lamp, hence the nickname “Lady with the Lamp”.
Some also called her “the Angel of Crimea”.
3. She Had Political Influence
Due to the horrible infections she witnessed during her work in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale proposed many solutions for improving sanitation, which are considered effectively the foundation of modern nursing.
Millions of lives would be saved by putting the lessons she learned from the Crimean War to good use.
She campaigned for legislation that would make connecting with main drainage systems mandatory for all buildings.The legislation went through several changes but was enacted to become the Public Health Act of 1874.
By 1935, Britain’s national life expectancy had increased by 20 years - a direct result of improved sanitation regulations.
Florence Nightingale also challenged poor working conditions for nurses and set standards for hospital conditions and patient care that became foundational to the development of modern nursing.
She advocated to elevate the profession’s reputation with better education standards, which in turn encouraged more women to enter the profession than ever before.
4. She Educated America’s First Trained Nurse
Linda Richards (1841-1930) was the first professionally trained American nurse.
She established nursing training programs in the United States and Japan, and created the first system for keeping individual medical records for hospitalized patients.
She owes part of her nursing education to Florence Nightingale whom she trained under at London’s Nightingale School of Nursing (founded in 1860 at St. Thomas’ Hospital).
When she returned to the United States, she would go on to found and superintend nursing training schools across the country.
5. Her Birthday is International Nurses Day
Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy, and died on August 13, 1910, at her home in London.
Since 1974, the annual International Nurses Day to recognize nurses for their tireless work and selfless contributions was set on Florence Nightingale’s birthday to honour her memory and extraordinary influence on the nursing profession.
6. Queen Victoria Adored Her
While she was working in Crimea, Her Majesty rewarded Florence Nightingale’s service by sending her a special brooch and a thank you message that read:
"It will be a very great satisfaction to me, when you return at last to these shores, to make the acquaintance of one who has set so bright an example to our sex."
Nightingale met the Queen in 1856 and they would remain in contact for decades.
7. She has a Museum in her Name
At St. Thomas Hospital, near the Houses of Parliament in London, you can find the Florence Nightingale Museum. The museum celebrates the many accomplishments of Florence Nightingale and was opened in 1989.
It houses her personal nursing material and artefacts and a large rare book collection. London is also home to the Florence Nightingale Foundation, which supports the professional development of nurses and midwives.
Remembering the Heroic Contributions of Military Nurses
Each year we as a society take time to commemorate all of the soldiers who gave their lives in service of their nation. But the role of nurses, and their integral contributions to the war and the wounded soldiers they cared for, is often overlooked or considered secondary.
We often forget how perilous being a military nurse was, particularly on the front lines of the first world war.
Nursing in war zones was exhausting, often dangerous work and nurses who take on the caregiving role on the front line put themselves at great risk both physically and emotionally.
Providing care in the most extreme times of horror and tragedy, these women were truly brave souls and remind us of how much of a difference nurses make in the world.
We named our company after Florence Nightingale because she represents the bravery, integrity and heroism of military nurses. And it's those same qualities that we see in the nurses who work through Florence everyday.
Whether it be on the frontlines or in a care home, we'd like to thank nurses everywhere for their service.