Sanitizing Old Flo

This just really annoys me because it manages to devalue, demean, trivialize and sanitize Florence Nightingale, all at once:

University of Phoenix Nursing: 5 Characteristics That Made Florence Nightingale Into a Nursing Legacy

Often called the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale’s legacy continues today. University of Phoenix nursing students are learning to emulate her pioneering ways. Contemporary nurses have much to gain by following the five key characteristics that made Florence Nightingale a success:

1. Purpose in Nursing

Early in her career, Nightingale described a “divine calling.” Her resolve to care for patients carried her through difficult times. Having a purpose is crucial for today’s University of Phoenix nursing graduates when dealing with long shifts and busy days.

2. Nursing Study

Nightingale began her career by observing deaconesses at a Kaiserswerth, Germany hospital. She later completed four months of formal training at the hospital. A strong educational foundation is helping current University of Phoenix nursing graduates compete for the best nursing jobs.

3. Modern Nursing Attitude

During the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale led a group of female nurses to a British war field hospital. At the time, this was a bold move, as women had never served in wartime hospitals. The modern field of nursing is continually changing. University of Phoenix nursing graduates are constantly looking for ways to improve their profession. . .


And so on, until a terminal barf factor is reached. The real Florence was a hugely more complex, interesting, and ultimately far more ambiguous figure than this crap would have you think. She was a woman bound by Victorian class sentiments who somehow managed to transcend them at the same time. A nurse, yes, who spent 50 years of her life more or less as an invalid, but managed to run the British army medical service for decades in the 19th century. She was a woman whose relations with her close associates bordered on the abusive, yet in the popular mind she was The Lady With The Lamp.  And still she presents a profoundly useful model for nurses, but not in the feel-good saccharine warm fuzzy way implied above. On her role at Scutari during the Crimean War Christopher Gill and Gillian Gill write:

[A]lthough [Nightingale] presumably had no concept of bacteria or viruses, she clearly understood contagion. She saw a clear relationship between the diseases killing her patients and the filth in which they lay, the air they breathed, the water they drank, and the food they ate. To Nightingale, the greatest tragedy of the Crimean War was the British Army’s failure, through bureaucratic inertia, to protect the soldiers’ health or to assist in their recovery. In her words, “The 3 things which all but destroyed the army in Crimea were ignorance, incapacity, and useless rules.

You get the feeling Nightingale wasn’t a warm-fuzzy sort of nurse. She wouldn’t be caught dead with teddy bears on her scrub top, for example. Yet she touches on what was central to her practice and what ought to be central to every nurse’s practice: the ability to act as the patient’s advocate, regardless of rules, bureaucracy or resistance from physicians or others in authority. Indeed, this is one of her central insights and her greatest contribution to our profession. It implies both a certain fearlessness and a touch of spinal steel, as well as a contumacious willingness to challenge conventional wisdom and authority. Might that we all have those qualities! Anything else, including drawing out a largely meaningless laundry list of “life lessons” from Nightingale’s career is really besides the point.


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  1. #1 by atyourcervix on Tuesday 29 December 2009 - 1231

    The more I read about Florence Nightingale, the more I am in awe of the changes she strove for in caring for the sick. As for this statement: “The 3 things which all but destroyed the army in Crimea were ignorance, incapacity, and useless rules.” — I am astounded by the third item, ‘useless rules’ that I find in our every day practice as nurses. See my latest post on D5LR use in labor. What happened to looking at the basics?!?! Liberal fluid/nutritional intake in labor is a basic necessity, yet we deny this to laboring women every day! Our big medical interventions are superior to “allowing” women to eat and drink as they please. Gag me.

  2. #2 by mog on Wednesday 30 December 2009 - 1820

    Did you know FN had a pet owl which dies when it was accidentally shut in a drawer??

  3. #3 by mog on Wednesday 30 December 2009 - 1820

    sorry, died, not dies

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