Florence Nightingale 1820 - 1910
This week I have chosen someone who is not strictly a scientist but who introduced us to some key ways in which to fight infection. In tribute to the fantastic work that everyone is doing in our hospitals, pharmacies, care homes and your own help by staying in I have chosen Florence Nightingale.
Florence was born on the 12th May 1820 to a wealthy family and as a teenager knew she wanted to help the sick and injured. It is hard for us to imagine the times she grew up in where this was deemed a most unsuitable job for someone in her family. As it is today, it was a job that would mean lots of hard work and they did not want their daughter to do this.
Florence showed great determination and eventually her father agreed and allowed her to train as a nurse in Germany and Paris. She then became the manager of a hospital for gentlewomen in Harley Street, London. This would have been a hospital for the wealthy with lots of provisions.
When the Crimean war broke out between France, Britain and Russia the number of casualties far exceeded expectations and soldiers were crammed together in hospitals with no nurses and no equipment. Determined to make a difference, Florence took 38 nurses to the Crimea and worked in the Scutari military hospital from 1854-1856.
Although people did not know exactly how germs and infection spread, Florence thought it was caused by something called miasma and thought that cleanliness would combat it. She gave her nurses scrubbing brushes to make sure the areas around her patients was clean, she opened windows to provide fresh air, she insisted on clean bedding, clean water for washing and good meals and nurses were able to treat patients. I recently watched an old black and white film about her life which brought home just home much she had to battle to get these changes to happen. She worked tirelessly for her patients and was able to save many lives with her changes.
It was when I looked at the current advice for how to stay well that I realise the impact that her work still has on us today. Keep washing your hands to prevent spread. Although we must stay indoors we are still encouraged to try and get some form of exercise in the fresh air once a day and to continue to eat well. Thank you to everyone, including the Food Banks and Supermarkets, who is looking after their family, neighbours or friends and making sure they have food.
Although it was the radical change of conditions in hospitals in the Crimea War that Florence is best known for, she continued to make an impact. She met Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and helped to set up the Army Medical College. She also set up training colleges for nurses and midwives and wrote a book called "Notes on Nursing" which is still available today. She had a long life dedicated to helping others and the links below help you find out more about this truly remarkable lady.