The lady with the lamp
Nightingale was a superintendent of a women’s hospital in Harley Street when reports of the dreadful conditions and lack of medical supplies suffered by the soldiers in the Crimean War. She was invited to oversee the introduction of female nurses into military hospitals in Turkey by the Minister of War, who was a social acquaintance.
Once there, she and the 38 nurses who went with her, improved supplies of beds, blankets and food in the hospitals, as well as the general conditions and cleanliness. Her nickname, ‘Lady with the Lamp’, was coined by soldiers who found the sight of her checking all was well at night comforting and earnt her their undying respect.
Nightingale’s influence on nursing spans ward design, infection control and healthy diet for recovery. Nightingale Wards were developed in response to her experiences in the Crimea, and her realisation that hospital buildings themselves could affect the health and recovery of patients.
Today, hospital design remains an important issue in the health and wellbeing of both patients and health professionals. King’s researchers are part of a project which is investigating how hospital spaces can be redesigned to reduce health professional burnout and improve patient care.
The social activist
Nightingale’s success introducing female nurses to the military hospitals had made her a national celebrity and donations poured into the Nightingale Fund. The money collected meant Nightingale could continue to reform hospitals in Britain after the war and establish the world’s first professional school of nursing at St Thomas’ Hospital in 1860, which exists in the present day as the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing Midwifery & Palliative Care at King’s. She also set up a School of Midwifery at King’s College Hospital.
Today, Nightingale’s belief in the need for specialist training for nurses is still evident in the vital role that higher education plays a vital role in equipping nurses and midwives with the skills to deliver high quality care.
Nightingale’s upbringing meant that she was well connected and linked to the political and intellectual aristocracy of the day. She met Queen Victoria on many occasions and they corresponded for decades. Nightingale used her influence and celebrity to campaign tirelessly to improve health standards. She published over 200 books, reports and pamphlets on hospital planning and organisation which are still widely read and respected today, including her most famous work Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not. When ill health forced her out of the public, she continued to exert influence through writing thousands of letters.
The data visualist