The Legacy of the Lamp

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Florence Nightingale is reknowned as the guiding force in the philosophy of nursing. She was born in the English Victorian era of an upper class family who considered it beneath her class to provide menial labor in the service of the ill and disabled.

Florence is attributed with defining what would be considered major health care reform today, for her era of the 1850’s.

She turned around the rodent-infested, cess-pool infected, deplorable conditions for the Crimean war soldiers who were dying in the hospital to which she was summoned and assigned. It is documented that she was able to reduce the death rate of the wounded soldiers by 2/3 by establishing principles of infection control, nutrition and nursing care.

Referred to as “the lady with the lamp” for her lamp-light guided nightly rounds in that Crimean hospital, Florence changed projected fatality for countless soldiers then and future generations of soldiers and civilians. Many would not have survived the deplorable conditions of that war without her direction and care. She established basic changes that we consider to be common sense today, from establishing the use of a hospital laundry, to routine cleaning of patient rooms, use of nutritious food, and assuring proper hand washing to prevent transfer of infection from patient to patient.

Florence Nightingale’s Birthday is May 12. Every year, her birthday is celebrated by nurses and recognized as National Nurse’s Day. Her writings and teachings are memorialized and remain the basic nursing principles of modern nursing. In fact, most allied health sciences including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, nutrition therapy, respiratory therapy are derived from Florence Nightingale’s basic teachings she wrote through the course of her very short life.

This week, National Nurses Week, is celebrated on behalf of the 3.6 million nurses who carry Florence’s lamp and legacy with them in the care they employ on behalf of every patient they encounter. Protecting, advocating, managing, educating, counseling, assessing, comforting, caring are just a few verbs to describe the role. Nurses do many different things and today there are over 100 nursing specialties. Practicing both science and art, nurses direct care of each patient in their charge to prevent harm, maintain and promote health, and improve each patient’s outcome. All nurses are asked to provide care with ethics and to practice at their highest level of training.

The Nightingale Pledge

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in con dence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family a airs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.