Florence Nightingale

As National Nurses Week comes to a close, we also mark the 200th birthday of social reformer and statistician Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing.

Born to wealthy and well-connected British parents in the Italian city whose name she bore, Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War (1853-1856). There, she organized care for wounded soldiers and raised the esteem of nursing during the Victorian Era. She was called a “ministering angel” and “the lady with the lamp.” In 1860, Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world and is now part of King’s College London. Today, the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care is ranked as the No. 1 faculty for nursing in London and in the United Kingdom and third worldwide.

Nightingale was close friends with Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, the pro-life suffragist and abolitionist who became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States. In 1857, Blackwell founded the New York Infirmary for Women and Children (now NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital), and she later opened a women’s medical college at the hospital, based on a plan developed with Nightingale. In 1874, the two worked together to create the first medical school for women in England, the London School of Medicine for Women.

As we continue to honor the nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, let us take a moment to remember the nurse who started it all. Thank you, Florence Nightingale, and all of the nurses who care for us and our loved ones each and every day.

– May 12, 2020