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