‘Use the word nursing for want of a better. It has been limited to signify little more than the administration of medicines and the application of poultices. It ought to signify the proper use of fresh air, light, warmth, cleanliness, quiet, and the proper selection and administration of diet — all at the least expense of vital power to the patient.

Florence Nightingale--Notes on Nursing (1860)

The Lady with the Lamp and the Nursing Profession

The Nursing profession—a science and an art practiced by both man and women—Tiring, arduous, demanding, tough, eye-bag forming, yet fulfilling, a vocation of honor and dignity entwined with humility.


It was in mid 1800’s with the leadership of Florence Nightingale that organized nursing started. Before her era, nursing care was done by paupers and drunkards: persons unfit for any type of work. Hospitals were placed where the poor frequently suffered more from the environment than from the disease that brought them there.

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

Nightingale’s efforts to uplift the nursing profession were indeed admirable. At that time, nursing was viewed as a kind of work that requires menial tasks or routinely actions but Nightingale saw it as a vocation aided by proper use of assessment and empowered by skills, knowledge and attitude acquired from proper schooling. In her book, she takes limelight away from the Physicians, and places it on the nurses.

Notes on Nursing—What It is and What It is not

Her most frequently cited work, Notes on Nursing, was written not as a nursing text but to “give hints for thoughts of women who have personal charge of the health of others.”

Nightingale’s notes on nursing covers all the basic necessities of human lives. It explains how to deal with sick people which can be applied not just to simple cough, colds and flues but to all types of human illnesses. And yes if one can read between the lines (as we always do), the book offers tips on how to survive a hospital experience.

Nightingale’s environmental model has always been applied in the hospital setting. One setting would include the care of our patients in the Intensive Care Unit wherein all chapters of the book can be applied—ventilation and warming, noise management, observation of the sick etc. And even if we are not in the hospital setting whether we are just in our office or at home, Nightingale’s vision of nursing is always present. We can even relate it to a song by Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks entitled No Air… and the lyric goes like this

“Tell me how I’m supposed to breathe with no air? Can’t live, can’t breath with no air That’s how I feel whenever ain’t there There’s no air, no air”

See? Nightingales contribution is so wide that the realization of her vision is not only limited to us nurses. And with that, her vision should inspire, motivate and direct every interaction we make and every intervention we do to be able to provide a wholistic nursing care to our patients and help them in their need for identifying their health concerns without them telling us what we can do for them but doing it automatically.


Although Nightingale’s book was more of a lecture, a sermon, or even a plea put into writing, she backed up her concepts with well researched studies to prove her points.

She is also a skilled statistician- used statistics to present her case for hospital reform. According to Cohen, “the idea of using statistics for such a purpose- to analyze social conditions and the effectiveness of public policy- is common place today, but at that time it was not” (Marie L. Lobo: NURSING THEORIES; The Base for Professional Nursing Practice; Fourth Edition; 1995)

The notes on nursing by Nightingale repeatedly emphasize on its aim to empower women to take control of the care not only the sick but also the healthy members of the family especially the children. We understand that this highlight is because the children are ought to be the foundation of the future. She used statistics to support her claims. These lines are lifted from the first pages of Notes on Nursing to show how extensive Nightingale’s research is for her to come up with such data; “--- do you know that in every seven infants in this civilized land of England perishes before it is one year old? That in London, two in every five die before they are five years old? And, in the other great cities of England, nearly one out of two?----More than 25,000 children die every year in London under 10 years of age” These are just some but they prove that Nightingale’s craft is based on thorough research and statistics.

Basing on today’s world, though advance techniques are being used in the nursing profession, still Nightingales thoughts are being applied. In a hospital in Dubai where one of our groupmates work (Ms. Elvie Abanico), still-life paintings are displayed in the patient’s room and nurses look at how long tentatively patients will stay in the hospital, the longer they stay the nurses will plan to give a room with a view—where flowers and tress can be seen from the patients window since basing on research variety of colors and pictures can help to make a patient feel well. As supported by Nightingales Notes on Nursing variety section page 44: "Variety of form and brilliancy of colors in objects presented to patients are actual means of recovery and that "Variety is just like food for a starving stomach, just like a sick patient who wants to see a variety, just like a starving eye”.

Indeed, one could simply say that Florence Nightingale is Nursing and Nursing is Florence Nightingale. So would it not be sensible if we also try to looked at her well-known work—‘Notes in Nursing’, in a whole new perspective that goes beyond the scope of Nursing?

No Place for a Woman: The Femme Fatal

During Nightingales time, women are considered second class in short they have no right to assert something—near helpless with lethargic lifestyle—a life of thoughtless comfort for the world of social service. During her time, she encountered a lot of problem just because she is a woman. Though she took part on influencing the decisions of the War Department by providing information to Sir Sidney Herbert by giving any of the position papers and reports, because of the position of women in Victorian England, she was not permitted to submit her findings under her own name.

(-Marie L. Lobo: NURSING THEORIES; The Base for Professional Nursing Practice; Fourth Edition; 1995)

In her book entitled Cassandra, she wrote:

“Women are never supposed to have any occupation of sufficient importance not to be interrupted, except ‘suckling their fools’; and women themselves have accepted this”

The above quote shows the displeasure of Nightingale on how women of her times accepted their roles at the society without even exerting an effort to show what they are capable of. In fact, she stated that there were even books written on the acceptance of role that women play in the society then. But Nightingale never conformed to the society nor did she accept. In fact, her writings as well as actions showed her firm disagreement with how society regarded women. So Nightingale was also one of great women in history who did her part to lobby for the rights of women.

Nightingale had a strong conviction that woman have the mental capacities to achieve whatever they wish to achieve. Out of this conviction came her resolve and action to establish nursing as a profession wherein women could develop the intellectual abilities to contribute meaningful service to society.

With her book—Notes on Nursing, a glimpse of feminism can be seen since the book empowers women to have personal charge of the health of others though it does not teach them how, but it asks women to teach herself. Thanks to Florence Nightingale, women now realize that they must gain control over their own time in order to change the social and political structures over their lives—it can be observed that majority of the nurses of today are women living what Florence Nightingale had stated in her book though it is a fact that men also share her vision of what nursing is.

Voluminous texts were written on Florence Nightingale and her contribution to the Nursing profession. What many nurses fail to realize is that she did more than just that. We hope our little blog could help them see and appreciate another aspect of her life and her contributions not just to nursing, but to the world.

“Nurses we are love serves—this is the essence of nursing. For what ever reason we pursue this course, regardless of where we practice it, the essence of nursing should be internalized…”

Jordin Sparks duet with Chris Brown - No Air

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