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Main » Articles » ISSUE #7

“The Lady with the Lamp”

On the Victoria Embankment in London there is a very simple but touching monument to those British who lost their lives defending Britain during World War II. At the bottom there is the inscription that made me stop and think. They are Winston Churchill’s words, "Never was so much owed by so many to so few”... Maybe, it’s just a coincidence but across the Thames, on the other bank there is a museum to the woman who can be proudly called ONE of those FEW - Florence Nightingale, a great nurse, a national heroine whose name is known to everybody in Britain.


I came across the name of Florence Nightingale for the first time while getting prepared the topic "National Health Service in Great Britain” for my university students. I wanted it to be interesting and informative, the one that made you realise why the British are so proud of their NHS. The phrase "Why do we remember Florence Nightingale?” caught my eye … and I couldn’t stop reading the article up to the very end. I was greatly impressed with what that modest woman had managed to do in her life.


Florence Nightingale... What so remarkable could she do to become famous? Keep in mind - she lived in Victorian Britain, when women played small (if any!) role socially.

Her family was noble and wealthy, and Florence had every chance to live the life one can only dream of. But  young Florence began to help the local poor and sick. She knew her aim -  she wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, at that time a nurse was considered a very low position in society. Fortunately, Florence persisted in her ambition and her parents didn’t stay in her way. She secretly read all she could find about health care and hospitals to become an expert on how to nurse the sick . Moreover, Florence visited hospitals around Europe to get more practice.

Her knowledge proved to be of great value during the Crimean War which Britain entered in 1854. The battles were fierce and bloody, there were plenty of wounded soldiers and military hospitals were overcrowded. But when information about horrible conditions in these hospitals and lack of medical supplies for troops appeared in The Times, it caused a sensation. Britain was shocked and stunned.

Florence asked the British secretary of war to send her as a  volunteer to the Crimea.  She wasn’t alone in her wish to help the British troops. Nightingale went there with 38 other nurses.She did her best to improve the cleanliness of the hospitals and provided the soldiers with clean clothes and sheets. She even improved the soldiers’ diet by giving them healthier and better cooked food. A lot of ordinary British people made donations to help those brave nurses and Florence used the money to buy extra food and supplies. Florence Nightingale made all of her nurses wear a sash over their uniforms as she wanted them to be distinguished  from other women at the hospital in Scutari and to be proud of their mission. Besides, she encouraged the soldiers to treat nurses with respect.

At night when everybody had a rest Florence carefully walked the wards with a Turkish lantern to see if her "children” were all right. She was their kind and loving angel, and they gave her the nickname "The Lady with the Lamp”. When soldiers died, she often wrote letters back to their families to comfort them. I think, she was a great warm-hearted woman, wasn’t she? And she was only 34! She could be a happy wife and mother, live in England and have no trouble. She chose life fully devoted to her profession and serving her country instead.

After the Crimean War Florence Nightingale came back to Britain a national heroine. A special song was composed for her return! She became a living legend because she helped save the British army from medical disaster.  Florence wrote a report and used statistical evidence to prove that more men had died from diseases than from their wounds! It was a horrid revelation...


In 1856, a big marble cross was erected on a high mountain at Balaclava to commemorate soldiers, doctors and nurses who died in that terrible war. It was Florence Nightingale who spent her own money for people to remember that no war should  happen ever again.

It’s likely to sound strange but Florence Nightingale became a very  influential woman in Victorian Britain. She was second only to Queen Victoria herself! When she had a meeting with the Queen, Florence asked that a Royal Commission be set up to investigate the health of the British Army. The report proved that "men had been dying in the military barracks due to filthy living conditions that spread disease, even in times of peace!” ( "The Florence Nightingale fact pack”, the museum leaflet). As a result, many radical changes took place and further improvements saved the lives of many soldiers.


Florence Nightingale continued working hard in the field of medical service in Britain as she realised that it left much to be desired. She established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. Soon her school gained a strong reputation and  hospitals all over the world were asking for Nightingale nurses to start new schools. They went not only to different countries of Europe but also to other continents. It was incredible success! The profession of nurse became respectable and much needed.  Weren’t Florence’s efforts worth trying? The conclusion suggests itself!

Florence realised that hospital buildings themselves could affect the health and recovery of patients. She offered ward designs, known as Nightingale Wards, which were first used at St.Thomas’ Hospital and then copied all over the world. She also supported the idea of nurses visiting the sick in their homes. It was new, unusual but it worked well. To share her valuable knowledge with other like-minded people, Florence wrote over 200 books on nursing and hospital organisation which are still in use.


In 1907, Florence became the first woman to receive the Order of the Merit, Britain’s highest civilian award. On May 12 (Florence Nightingale’s birthday), the whole world celebrates International Nurses Day. In 1912, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent launched a medal of Florence Nightingale to acknowledge the best Sisters of Mercy. It’s still the highest and most honourable award. In 2010, a special 2-pound jubilee coin "100th anniversary of Florence Nightingale death” was minted in Britain. On the reverse side of the coin there is a very symbolic image: in the centre on the background of radiating sun beams there are nurse’s hands checking a patient’s pulse. Touching, isn’t it?


Why do we remember Florence Nightingale? Now you know the answer, I believe.


Category: ISSUE #7 | Added by: Chuda (30-Nov-2012) | Author: Roma Naugolaya
Views: 860 | Comments: 10 | Tags: Florence Nightingale, The Lady with the Lamp | Rating: 0.0/0
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