Strange but True
Florence Nightingale’s period of greatest activity and achievement (1857-72) was exactly the period when she was bedridden, in an agony of pain, exhausted, depressed and apparently on the edge of death.

“The Great Serenifer”
For Nightingale, nursing was a practical imperative & a spiritual exercise, providing a nexus of body & soul that gave her the deepest satisfaction. It was, in her own words. “The great serenifer.”

Work for her was a passion a relaxant

When she was weary of arguing with the purveyor, writing letters to ministers, listening to the complaints of a nurse, or coping with the ego of a doctor, she found strength at the bed side. Nightingale did not believe that God wanted or intended men to suffer, and she was fiercely convinced that the job of a nurse was to relieve the physical suffering of others, not to save her own soul by tending the sick.

Nightingale the Nurse
To nurse was also to hold a hand, to look with love, to be their for the dying.

‘You ask me why I do not write something—- I think one’s feeling waste themselves in words, they ought all to be distilled into actions, which bring results.’

‘Let us each and all realize the importance of our influence on others — stand shoulder to shoulder and not alone in a a good cause.’

It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a Hospital that it should do the sick no harm

Let us be anxious to do well, not for selfish praise, but to honour and advance the cause, the work we have taken up (as nurses).

The very essence of all good organization is that everybody should do her (or his) work in, such a way as to help and not hinder every one else’s work.’

Nursing is an art; & if it is to be made an art, requires as exclusive a devotion, as hard a preparation as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or cold marble, compared with having to do with the living body—- the temple of gods spirit—- it is one of the fine arts. I have almost said, the finest of fine arts.

‘For us who nurse, our Nursing is a thing, which, unless in it we are making progress every year, every month, every week, take my word for it, we are going back.’

Let each founder train as many in her/his spirit as he/she can. Their pupils will in their turn be founder also.

‘Let whoever is Incharge keep this simple question in her head (not how can I always do this right thing myself) but how can I provide for this right thing to always be done.’

Asceticism is the trifling of an enthusiast with his power, a puerile coquetting with his selfishness or his vanity, in the absence of any sufficiently great object to employ the first or overcome the last [1857].


I stand at the alter of the murdered men, &, while I live, I fight their cause.[1856]

The honour does not lie in putting on Nursing like your uniform. Honour lies in loving perfection, consistency, and in working hard for it: in being ready to work patiently : ready to say not “How clever I am” but “I am not yet worthy; and I will live to deserve to be called a Trained Nurse

No man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this devoted and obedient. Would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It would not do for a policeman[1859]

For what is Mysticism? Is it not the attempt to draw near to God, not by rites or ceremonies, but by inward disposition? Is it not merely a hard word for the Kingdom of Heaven is within? Heaven is neither a place not a time. [1873]

“Ingenuity and perseverance (and these really constitute the good nurse) night save more lives than we wot of.”

“But if you cannot get the habit of observation one way or another you had better give up being a nurse, for it is not your calling, however kind and anxious you may be.”