Date: August 9, 2013

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florence nightingale the educationist

“An uneducated man who practices physic is justly called a quack, perhaps an imposter. Why are not uneducated nurses called quacks and imposters?”


Florence Nightingale believed that if England was ever to allow women to perform all nursing functions, those women would have to be trained professionals, modeled on the emerging profession of women educators, not on nuns. Florence was confident in her abilities and very clear in her goals. She her self was a first lass practical nurse who could provide a model for others to follow – she had the ability to teach them.
Men of importance like Lord Palmerstone, Lord Shaftesbury and Sidney Hlerbert knew and had trust in her abilities and consulted her and also confided in her. Besides this her own family was wealthy and had good connections.
Nightingale plan was to take charge of a hospital or infirmary and their train women supervisors who would revolutionize patient care in the whole of the public hospital system. She had a large circle of reform minded, sanitarian friends who strongly encouraged her to pursue such a plan. She needed their help since she, like all other women in Victorian society, had no qualifications.
In February 1853 – she traveled to France – where she had the opportunity to visit all the city’s public medical facilities – she attended operations and toured wards. Florence collected “reports, returns, statistics, pamphlets”. By this time she was already putting together the statistical analysis of medical facilities and preparing the questionnaires that were to later form the basis of her work.
She rallied for systematic nurses training but did not rate it higher than character – or imagined it to be all sufficient – she was a deeply religions person and for her nursing was a vocation not a trade, but she was an educationist who believed that others besides deaconesses and nuns could be good nurses – she also was a visionary and saw trained nursing as a secular career.
The other point that made the Nightingale School remarkable was its endowment. This is of special interest as showing that Florence Nightingale, whose aim was always educational, very clearly understood the importance of financial independence for the higher interests of such a school. In the word of one writer: ‘The distinctive advance made by the Nightingale School was due to its independence. From the first its liberal endowment has allowed it to hold fast its educational ideals. And there it has been proved that the best nursing service in a hospital can be given by pupil nurses of a school that has for its main purpose their education, and not the pecuniary advantage of the hospital’.
This point, gradually lost sight of since Florence Nightingale’s day, has only recently been brought again to the attention of those responsible for the training of nurses.


Florence Nightingale arranged to provide the soldiers with books, magazines, candles, and a pleasant reading room where they could smoke and drink coffee.
She set up schools for the men in different regiments as well as for the soldiers children. She arranged play reading and lectures. The small army of middle- class reformer volunteers in England, led by Florence’s sister Parthenope, was mobilized to acquire – recreational, educational, and decorative materials of every kind.
They sent 1000 copy books, writing material diagrams, maps, books and music.
Queen Victoria volunteered a print showing “the Duke of Wellington presenting may flowers to little Prince Arthur, his godson.” The print was a big success with in soldiers.

Florence Nightingale was determined to collect the knowledge that would help her follow her “calling” In secret she studied the reports of medical commissions, the pamphlets of sanitary authorities, the histories of hospitals and homes. She spent the intervals of the London season in workshouses.

Five different methods of nursing the sick

Florence Nightingale in notes on Hospitals, 1863 – five different, ‘methods of nursing the sick’ which she had seen actually working in various hospitals. Briefly- as expressed by her-
1. Where the nurses belong to a religious order, and are under their own spiritual head; the hospital being administrated by a separate and secular governing body.
2. Where the nurses are of a religious order, the head of which administers both order and hospital.
3. Where the nurses are secular under their own head; the hospital having its own separate and secular government.
4. Where the nurses are secular; and under the same secular authority as that by which the hospital where they nurse is governed.
5. Where the nurses are all men and seculars, and under the same secular made authority as the hospital.

The ‘Nightingale’ system

The main fractures instituted by Florence Nightingale at St. Thomas’s and subsequently copied in many other hospitals are four:
1. The matron is supreme, she is responsible for the nursing in the hospital, for the kitchen, laundry and domestic staff, for the nursing school and for the appointment and dismissal of the nursing staff. She is answerable only to the Hospital Board.
2. The student nurses ‘live in’, for their educational and moral good as well as for discipline, their home being attached to the hospital and under the large of a ‘Home Sister’.
3. Theoretical teaching is given to the nurses, including instruction in the basic sciences.
The ward ‘sister’ occupies a place of great dignity and importance: She is responsible, under the Matron’s direction, for the practical teaching of the nurses.
Besides these four fundamental points Florence Nightingale laid great stress on the above – mentioned special distinction of her school, i.e. the independence, financial and otherwise, that it enjoyed owing to its endowment.

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