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May 2015

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Celebrating 195 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale

International Nurses Day is an annual celebration of nursing and of the remarkable life and work of Florence Nightingale. Celebrated all around the world, it is held on the anniversary of her birth.

Florence Nightingale’s life and achievements

Florence Nightingale was named after the Italian city where she was born in 1920. The family returned to England when Florence was one year old. Florence’s family were wealthy so she was able to travel abroad in an era when most people could not afford to. She visited places such as Italy, Greece and Egypt, but it was in Germany, where she encountered people from the Lutheran church caring for the sick, that she felt she found her calling.

An early proponent of gender equality, despite the examples of women all around her, including her mother, Florence believed that women could be the equal of men. In a time when women of her social class were expected to contribute little to life outside the home, Florence had the courage and conviction to be different. She chose not to marry, despite having suitors, as she felt this would prevent her continuing her work.

Her father had influential friends, including Lord Palmerston who became Prime Minister. Florence’s connections with senior politicians enabled her to advise on and influence policy. For example, she became a close friend of Sidney Herbert, who held the position of Secretary of War during the Crimean War. Such was her ability to organise and influence that Queen Victoria reportedly once said of Florence Nightingale: “I wish we had her at the War Office”.

Florence Nightingale had tremendous strength of character and was willing to stand up to anyone who attempted to stop her in her work, but she was also full of tenderness and compassion for the sick and needy. She became known as the Lady of the Lamp because of her habit of walking through the wards of the war hospital at night, carrying a lamp as she quietly checked on her patients.

In 1860, Florence Nightingale founded the world’s first dedicated training college for nurses, the Nightingale Training School and Home for Nurses at St Thomas Hospital in London. Her book, Notes on Nursing, became a key reference text in training for nurses.

Discounts for nurses from Health Service Discounts

Florence Nightingale spent much of her 90 year life dedicated to promoting and developing the nursing profession. Today, Health Service Discounts help to look after the interests of nurses, offering NHS discounts, benefits, and promoting education for everyone in the nursing profession.

Image Credits:
Image by Eamon Curry via Flickr