Date: August 9, 2013

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florence nightingale the humanitarian; the nurse

The role of nursing as having ‘charge of somebody’s health’ based on the knowledge of “how to put the body in such state to be free of disease or to recover from disease.”
(Nightingale 1860)

Form ‘Me’ to ‘You’

If nurses are to serve the sick, serve the people at large, and serve well – then it has to be an individualistic, humane, holistic approach – the minute we refer to patients as clients’, as customers’ as ‘consumers’, the devotion, dedication, the rapport, the empathy – all fade away and we allow ‘health care’ to become market-places where people can come and buy health care as a commodity.

Nursing can be called ‘nursing’ only if it can make a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families, and – make a difference in societies, communities, nations, and the world.

‘Why have we no Sisters of Charity?’
The Report that changed history.
The Times October 9 and 12, 1854.

Special correspondent W.H. Russel described the deplorable condition of the troops, and reported that there were in the hospitals neither surgeons, dressers, nurses, nor the commonest appliances of a workhouse sick ward.

On October 13 he enlarged on this same theme and added that the French troops had the help of ‘Sisters of Charity’- His letter the next day boldly demanded ‘Why have we no Sisters of Charity?’

This challenge escaped neither Florence Nightingale nor her old friend Sidney Herbert, the Secretary at war.

Note: At the outbreak of the Crimean war the Duke of Newcastle was the Secretary for war and Sidney Herbert the Secretary at War.

The Times October 14,1854
The Russians were nursed by Sisters of
the Holy Cross Organized by Grand Duchess
Helena Pavlovan. There were at one time
200 sisters working for the soldiers.

In the armies of France the Sisters of Charity had rendered similar services and even ministered to the wounded on the battle field; but their labors were a work of religious charity and not an organized sanitary movement.

The English sick and wounded were in 4 hospitals -
► General and the Barrack hospitals
(the largest)
► Palace hospital (opened Jan, 1855)
► Hospital at Koulali 4 miles away, opened December, 1854
Florence and her nurses were established in
the Barrack Hospital.

The roles that nurses assume today, she adopted and carried out with tremendous dedication and devotion in Crimea. She dealt with soldiers who were under great stress and pain, she dealt with anger and depression, with despair and sorrow with death! As we have seen in the preceding chapters, she was all in one, Administrator, Manager, Leader, Nutritionist, Hygienist, Sanitarian; she served as patient’s advocate. Whatever the situation, with whatever available means, (which were very few) inspite of all limitations, she meted out nursing care, demonstrated immense caring and a holistic, humane approach. She was a self trained nurse yet she was able to deal with as big a crisis as the Crimean war; for her nursing was ‘sacred’ she was a spiritual person with very progressive ideas – all the knowledge that she had collected over the years- ever since her ‘calling’ in 1857 – she applied with great skill and efficiency – as she carried out the care of the wounded in Scutari she was an educationist and she did not neglect educational needs of the soldiers – I am not going into great details, because in the preceding chapters I have included all the available material regarding her work not only during the war but also during the pre and post war period.

Florence Nightingale had no fear for her own life and spent many hours a day in scutari doing individual nursing and she chose to work in fever and dysentery wards. Her skill and sincerity showed in her caring and nursing.

The resources were very scanty and she and her nurses worked from morning till night, and through the night—- Today we talk about critical thinking skills – she practiced these skills in crimes; In-spite of the nurse shortages (remember they were not trained nurses) she displayed leadership qualities and faced hostile behavior from surgeons and other Army personnel – She worked with the minimum basic requirements (to mete out proper nursing care) and yet managed to bring down the mortality rate from 42/- to a mere 2% that too in a short span. Her sincerity, devotion and skills were demonstrated in her work, in her care and in her humane service.

In short she was an outstanding of the greatest souls that ever lived.

Her views on nursing were derived from a ‘spiritual philosophy’. She viewed nursing as a search for truth in finding answers to health care questions or discovering and using God’s law of healing in nursing practice.

“Without the great crisis of the Crimean, the matchless powers of Florence Nightingale might never have been set free, her commanding genius might have found no fitting field for action……”

End of the war

“I stand at the altar of the murdered men, and while I live I fight their cause.”

Peace was finally signed in February 1856, but as the work of the hospitals did not at once cease it was only in August, 1856, that she returned home from Scutari and in the eyes of the world her task was over – In her opinion ‘Crimean mission was not so much a climax as an episode’ her task had scarcely begun – she was not deterred by her illness the one that started at Balaclava – and although she was advised rest – she continued to work – in her own words – “I stand at the altar of the murdered men, and while I live I fight their cause.”

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