DN150: One Hundred & Fifty Years of District Nursing

district nursing 150 - queens nursing institute

Florence Nightingale and District Nursing

florence nightingale


“Florence Nightingale was by no means a Plaster Saint. She was a woman of strong passions… not only a gentle angel of compassion… more of a logician than a sentimentalist.”

2010 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale.

She came to prominence during the Crimean War for her pioneering work in nursing, and was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night to tend injured soldiers. Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment, in 1860, of her nursing school at St Thomas's Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world. International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.

Nightingale wrote Notes on Nursing, published in 1859, written specifically for the education of those nursing at home. She wrote "Every day sanitary knowledge, or the knowledge of nursing, or in other words, of how to put the constitution in such a state as that it will have no disease, or that it can recover from disease, takes a higher place."

Nightingale spent the rest of her life promoting the establishment and development of the nursing profession and organizing it into its modern form. When William Rathbone, the father of district nursing, sought advice, it was to Florence Nightingale that he first wrote, in 1860. She advised him to establish a training home in Liverpool, which was completed by 1863. They subsequently wrote regularly to each other, sharing ideas and experiences, and mutual encouragement. Florence Nightingale had a profound impact on the early development of district nursing and also the foundation of the Queen’s Institute in 1887.

In 1883, Nightingale was awarded the Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria. In 1907, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit. In 1908, she was given the Honorary Freedom of the City of London.

From 1857 onwards, Nightingale suffered poor health and was intermittently bedridden. Despite her symptoms, she remained phenomenally productive in social reform.  She was also a pioneer in the field of hospital planning, and her work was propagated across Britain and the world.

On her death the Daily News quoted the words of Harriett Martineau: ‘She effected two great things, a mighty reform in the care of the sick and opening for her sex into the region of serious business.’

*The Life of Florence Nightingale, Sir Edward Cook, London 1913.



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