Scutari Hospital in Florence Nightingale’s Crimea antique print
On this day 12th. May in 1820 Florence Nightingale was born.
Florence Nightingale was born at the Villa Colombaia, in Florence, Tuscany, Italy, and was named after the city of her birth.
The daughter of a wealthy and influential family, she was raised at the family’s country homes at Embley, Hampshire and Lea Hurst, Derbyshire.
During the mid 1840’s Florence declared her intention to devote her life to nursing, a decision which brought much opposition from her family, especially her mother.
However, her family’s wealth, and an annual allowance from her father, allowed her to travel throughout Europe learning about the caring professions and making useful contacts.
Having met Sidney Herbert in Rome in 1847, a politician who had been Secretary at War in 1845-1846, she established a close relationship with him and his wife, becoming an advisor to Herbert until his death in 1861.
In 1854 the Crimean War began and Britain joined forces with France and the Ottoman Empire against Russia.
Early reports from the field of battle spoke of wounded British soldiers dying as a result of poor hygiene and a lack of nursing care.
Florence decided to recruit nurses to go to the Crimea and ‘do something’ about the conditions and in this she found an ally, for Sidney Herbert was again Secretary for War.
Sidney Herbert authorised Nightingale’s staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained, and 15 Catholic nuns, to proceed to the Crimea.
On arrival at Scutari she found wounded soldiers dying from infections caused by lack of hygiene, a lack of medicines, and being cared for by inadequate numbers of medical personnel.
Nine out of ten soldiers in her hospital were dying from typhus, typhoid, cholera and dysentery rather than from battle wounds.
Following an appeal by her in ‘The Times’ newspaper a Sanitary Commission was sent to Scutari to address issues associated with the building in which she was working. Sewers were unblocked and ventilation improved.
Together with the work of the Sanitary Commission she instituted a regime of cleanliness, with much emphasis on ‘hand washing’ and other simple procedures, which dramatically reduced those dying from disease rather than from their wounds.
At the conclusion of the war in the Crimea Nightingale had £45,000 at her disposal from the Nightingale Fund to set up the Nightingale Training School at St. Thomas’ Hospital on 9 July 1860.
The first trained Nightingale nurses began work on 16 May 1865 at the Liverpool Workhouse Infirmary.
By 1882, several Nightingale nurses had become matrons at several leading hospitals.
Florence Nightingale died on 13 August 1910, at the age of 90. Her achievements having been recognised by becoming the first recipient of the Royal Red Cross. Appointed a Lady of Grace of the Order of St John and the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. Two years before her death she had been given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London.