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National Nurses Week & Florence Nightingales Birthday

Thursday 12th May 2011

During her lifetime Florence Nightingale started what is now considered to be the basis for modern public health systems around the world. May 12th is her 191st birthday and is also celebrated as International Nurses Day too. The importance of Nightingale’s medical work is particularly relevant in the UK and the history surrounding the birth of the NHS, as well as her nursing career during the Crimean War is taught in history lessons in schools as a small part of secondary coursework.
While working with injured soldiers in the Crimean war as a military nurse, Florence Nightingale noted the insanitary conditions in which they were forced to offer medical aid. Although she didn’t make the connection between this and infection rates until she returned to the UK. Her nursing training and teaching after this episode, concentrated in the design of hospitals,clean and comfortable accommodation for patients, hygiene and sanitation, in order to cut the number of deaths due to disease and infections caught in hospitals via wounds or other injuries. Ten times more soldiers died from typhoid, dysentery, typhus and cholera than from their battle wounds. There was little medical equipment, few sterile instruments for surgery, and overcrowded, unsuitable buildings that contributed to the high rates of deaths. A lack of proper food preparation facilities also meant the patients didn’t receive decent nutrition while they were recovering.“The Lady of the Lamp” became her nickname due to Nightingale’s habit of making rounds of the wards at night to check on her patient’s wellbeing. The first ever structured nursing school was set up and run by Florence Nightingale and is now part of Kings College in London, training hospital, and she spent the rest of her career promoting the development of nurse training and modernising the system.

National Nurses Week celebrates the contribution and role of nurses in society, as well as remembering the pioneering work of Florence Nightingale in UK history. Teach your pupils about the contribution one woman made in history to the current system of doctors, nurses and hospitals that is now established around the work. Links to free teaching resources can be found at the Grid.


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