Florence Nightingale

Amal Chatterjee
7 min readJan 3, 2020


Source : Google photo of Florence Nightingale

Synopsis: Nursing is a noble profession that is often under appreciated. The high standard Florence Nightingale set for all nurses still guides them and motivates them. We should all learn to appreciate them and give them our whole hearted thanks because they bring us back to health through their care and empathy.

Who has not heard of Florence Nightingale ? She was a nurse who struggled to care for the numerous wounded and dying soldiers in the Crimean war and saved many lives against all odds. There was little medicine to go around and the doctors were overworked trying to take care of so many patients all at the same time with very limited resources while Florence did what she could to bring comfort to her patients. She was like an angel to those wounded people whom she soothed with sweet words while changing their blood soaked bandages.

She read to those who had their eyes bandaged and she washed the dirty bandages relentlessly to be reused again because there was a shortage of everything during the war but Florence remain undeterred staying sleepless nights with her patients and won the love and admiration for her selfless service.

Why did I choose Florence Nightingale to write about a noble profession called nursing is not hard to understand. It is because Florence epitomized all that is good in a person and gave all she had in the service of taking care off the sick and dying soldiers. She worked under very difficult circumstances in the field hospital away from the front where she saw death everyday and heard the cries of anguish and pain when the doctors removed the limbs of those severely wounded to save their lives. Florence was a young girl who had grown up in Italy in comfort but volunteered to work in Crimea as a nurse when she could have stayed in Italy and like most other girls of her age but she didn’t..

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820. During the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses improved the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds. Her writings sparked worldwide health care reform. … She died August 13, 1910, in London. ( Wikipedia )

To be able to reduce the death count by two thirds under very difficult circumstance was nothing short of miraculous that she did with utmost care and concern that nurses all over the world take as an example today . She was the inspiration that brought about the health care reform that we see today.

When a Swiss girl I once met in Italy told me that she was going to be a nurse, I congratulated her and said that I wish girls in India took nursing as seriously as she because there it was relegated to low caste and Christian women who did not represent the best in their profession , who were often rude lacking compassion and concern.

India is a caste ridden society where the upper caste women never get into nursing because they consider it a lowly paid profession better suited to low caste women or Christians. It is related to culture where the upper caste women do not like to clean a patient and his excreta because they think that such jobs are for the untouchables and the tribals and not for the high caste women. They would rather be doctors and surgeons.

When our daughter was born in a hospital in India, I asked for a birth certificate with her name on it but the low caste nurse was rude and gave me a certificate without her name on it that caused quite a lot of trouble. I was shocked but later learned that it was also cultural. Indian babies get their proper name on their first birthday and not before so how do they get a proper birth certificate ? I still do not know.

Here in the Philippines, nursing is a choice profession for many young girls not for the reasons of Florence Nightingale but because they want to get a job in the United States or other countries with the possibility of getting citizenship there and a chance to get married. Still the Filipino nurses are known for their professional behavior and compassion for the sick so they are in demand in countries where their own citizens do not like to be nurses. Those who stay in the Philippines do so not because they have not tried to go abroad but because of perhaps other family reasons like care for the old parents.

Not too long ago the kids were born at home with the help of midwives in India and still do in rural areas where there are no facilities and doctors. Also because giving birth in a proper hospital can be costly that they can’t afford. I was told that it costs 25000 to 30000 USD in the United States to give birth in a hospital attended by well trained doctors and nurses and a lot more if the baby is premature, very small and needs ICU care for a long time. The surgeons charge a very hefty fee for a C section operation or a difficult birth but most women have some sort of insurance to cover such costs.

This is not so in developing countries where the cost may not be as high as in the US but still quite costly for them if they do not have insurance to cover for it. The poor people who need hospital care are the ones to suffer because they do not have the insurance so can’t pay for the service yet they are the ones who keep producing babies in large numbers. I heard the old people saying that not all the fruits in a tree get to maturity so some just fall off meaning that they are prepared to accept that some kids do not survive for long because they are born small , malnourished or premature.

The infant mortality is quite high in some parts of the world where the new born kids do not get adequate healthcare for one reason or other so the women just make up for it with more kids. It was considered normal not too long ago in India that some kids in a family died before they were one year old but now the times have changed so the child mortality rate has come down thanks to better nursing care and better hospitals.

No one can underestimate the role a nurse plays in the health care industry anywhere. The doctors do not look after the patients after their diagnosis and treatment or surgery. It is the nurse who nurses the patient back to health with consistent care, timely administration of medicines, keeping the patient clean and change his sheets and bandages. It is the nurse who feeds the patient if he can’t feed himself. It is the nurse who writes letters for the patient and even reads books to him if he wants .

She looks after the patient professionally by being strict but not rude. She keeps an eye on the monitors and calls the doctor if there is an emergency. Florence Nightingale through her writings inspired all nurses to learn how to take care of patients the way she did under very difficult war time situation in Crimea so long ago. Many nurses may not even have heard of her but the care she gave to her patients is still being emulated worldwide.

People who live in the comfort of their homes do not realize how difficult it is for a nurse to stay awake whole night to look after a patient when most people are asleep. Doctors are often harsh on nurses who fall asleep or do not do what they are supposed to do so the nursing as a profession is not very rewarding in developing countries.

The government run hospitals in India are often not well equipped or clean. I know it because my daughter was born in such a hospital where my wife was given a private room but with no sheet on the dirty mattress and no light bulb so we had to bring our own sheet, towels and light bulb. The nurses working there worked under such condition but they had no say in how the hospital was run. They were indifferent and did not care.

So there is room for improvement in all government run hospitals anywhere . While providing services to the poor and destitute, they suffer from under funding, poor management and less than hygienic conditions. I have mentioned a hospital in India in my previous blog that had serious problems of cleanliness that I had to mention to the administrator . Thankfully the hospital is much cleaner now.

In developed countries there are stricter rules and regulations that all healthcare centers must abide but even there we hear of horrible conditions in some hospitals where the war veterans are treated. The nurses do their job but they do not run the hospitals so they try to cope as best as they can like in many government run hospitals in India.

Nursing is and will always remain a noble profession because they are vital to the health of a patient. They are more than nurses just to administer drugs or check the temperature of a sick person. They are companions, care givers and sentinels who keep watch on a patient even when he is sleeping. They certainly deserve more praise but do not get it. Very few people remember them after leaving the hospitals. If you ever need hospital care , just remember that there are nurses who will look after you and bring you back to health so be grateful for their care and efforts.

Florence Nightingale has shown them the way.

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