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Nurses Week: Building on Florence Nightingale's Example

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   May 08, 2018

Florence Nightingale may be nursing's most famous caregiver, but don't overlook the way today's nurse leaders are influencing change in healthcare. 

If you had to name a famous nurse, who would it be? Florence Nightingale, of course. Nightingale's invaluable work saving lives and laying the foundation of the nursing profession has captured the hearts and minds of both nurses and the general public. Even though she was born almost two centuries ago, the founder of nursing remains the face of nursing.

However, I often wonder if focusing on the past causes us to overlook the current ways nurses are shaping the nursing profession and leading changes in healthcare.

So this National Nurses Week, which culminates on May 12—Nightingale's birthday—I encourage you to keep the following saying in mind, "You don't know where you're going until you know where you've been," and take some time to reflect on the contributions of nurses both past and present.

The following are highlights from Nightingale's biography by the Florence Nightingale Museum paired with HealthLeaders Media stories featuring the work of modern-day nurses. Nurse leaders have built upon the foundations laid by the 'Lady with the Lamp' to drive the profession, patient care, and healthcare delivery forward.

Happy Nurses Week!

Problem solvers

When Nightingale arrived in Scutari, Turkey to provide care to soldiers injured in the Crimean War, she found unsanitary conditions and a lack of medical supplies at the military hospitals. She took steps to improve the conditions and cleanliness of the hospital environment.

Nurses can still be counted on to improve quality and outcomes, enhance an organization's culture, and build relationships with patients, colleagues, and the community. In the March/April HealthLeaders magazine cover story, Your Nurses Can Fix the Hospital, three nurse leaders share their thoughts on how nurses can influence change in healthcare and be drivers of innovation.

Advocates for change

After the war, Nightingale became an advocate for improving Britain's civil hospitals, communicating the need for reform by using statistics to show that more men had died from infections than from their injuries. According to her biography, Nightingale wrote some 13,000 letters as part of her campaigns, and corresponded with Queen Victoria for over thirty years.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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