The Contribution of Florence Nightingale in Nursing


Like many other professions in the world today, nursing has undergone tremendous transformations throughout history. It is evident that the outlook of nursing in the 21st century as an admirable career differs largely from what was known a century ago. This change has been brought about by visionary and intelligent people who had a sole vision of transforming nursing into a reputable profession by the 21st century (Berman Snyder & Kozier, 2008). Although this process took ages, it is doubtless to mention that the changes continue impacting nurses in a positive manner. This essay discusses the contribution of Florence Nightingale, one of the pioneers of nursing.

Florence Nightingale

Several people have played significant roles in the transformation of nursing, with their efforts serving as propellers in realizing acceptable nursing practices in America, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. Among these people are a renowned mathematician, painter, and ambassador of nursing practice, Florence Nightingale, whose efforts continue impacting nursing in the 21st century (Berman Snyder & Kozier, 2008). Many professional nurses believe that her work was quite instrumental in molding nursing into what it is today. With her main focus being directed on the hospital environment, Nightingale ensured that all patients were in a safe and healthy environment that would facilitate their recovery promptly. This was to be highly appreciated by practicing nurses as they interacted with different patients on a daily basis. From this, many nurses today put sanitation, diet, and a healthy patient environment first while on duty.

Florence Nightingale was born in 1820 to a wealthy father, William Nightingale in Florence, Italy (Landsberg, 2011). She maintained a close relationship with her father, who passionately taught her several disciplines including but not limited to French, German, Greek, history, Italian, philosophy, Latin, and mathematics (Berman Snyder & Kozier, 2008). Florence had the desire of working as a nurse, a move her parents bitterly opposed since nursing was mainly associated with high-class women in the society.

Florence met Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman to become a doctor. This was a great boost for her as a source of encouragement in realizing her dream of training as a nurse. She was permitted by her father in 1851 to pursue nursing at the Institute of Protestant Deaconesses in Germany. At the elapse of two years at the college, she served in one of the hospitals as the resident lady superintendent. Many authors believe that Florence significantly transformed the practice of nursing in the 19th century after becoming a qualified nurse. Her efforts earned her titles, the common one being, “the lady with the Lamp” (Berman Snyder & Kozier, 2008).

Florence worked in various institutions and positions. Upon her graduation, she was concerned with the care of women with different illnesses and rose to the leadership of the organization based on her skills and experience as a qualified nurse. Due to her excellent performance in various positions as a practicing nurse and leader, Florence became a consultant trainer for many hospitals as her knowledge was highly acknowledged (David & Sherratt, 2010).

In understanding Florence’s contribution to nursing practice, it is imperative to underscore her involvement in the Crimean War between 1953 and 1956. Her thirst to participate in this war sprouted after learning of the poor conditions of ailing soldiers. In collaboration with other nurses, they were a source of comfort and aid to injured soldiers (Strachey, 2002). She was compelled to transform nursing practice at the sight of the conditions of soldiers, who were left in filthy conditions that were characterized by dirty rags, which were being used to dress wounds. She supplied them with bedding, soap, bandages, and clean water to clean their wounds and save them from diseases that were being caused by unhealthy conditions. Because of her intervention, the death rate dropped among ailing soldiers, reaching almost zero (Strachey, 2002). This continues to impact the way wounded patients get attended to by nurses in the 21st century. Cleanliness, diet, and clean environment are given priority.

Florence started a training program for nurses in the year 1860 in London at St. Thomas Hospital. Since then, nursing training has strongly assimilated her model of a healthy environment. She spent most of her time in bed especially after she established the training program. Her illness was highly linked to the terrible conditions she got exposed to during her service to wounded soldiers as a nurse (Arnstein, 1956). However, this did not deter her from transforming nursing practice. She extensively wrote nursing materials, books, and notes, which are still revered in the 21st century. She died at the age of ninety in 1910 and National Nurses Week is celebrated annually in her honor in the United States.

Florence Nightingale’s Nursing theory

Florence Nightingale is documented as the first nursing theorist in the world. As a theorist and healthcare reformer, she endeavored to transform nursing practice by making nurses understand their role in taking care of patients and emphasized the need for a safe and healthy environment for the quick recovery of patients. Her approach in sanitation methods immensely brought a change in many hospital surroundings through application of the theory to nursing practice, which played a major role in taming patients’ mortality rates (Arnstein, 1956). Her principal focus was on practical ways of achieving actual methods of disease control in nursing through statistical research that provided quantifiable support for her proposals and arguments. These practices are strongly practiced today worldwide by nurses in the 21st century as nurses emphasize implementation of her theories.

Most of the contribution credit given to Florence Nightingale is based on her definition of nursing. She believed that nurses had the responsibility of helping patients to meet their needs and gaining status that would allow them to recover quickly. This could only be possible by creating a conducive environment that permits good health. Her argument emphasized a host of conditions and activities that would facilitate a healthy patient’s environment (Berman Snyder & Kozier, 2008). These included but not limited to fresh air, warmth, light, proper and balanced diet, and monitoring of energy expenditure among patients. Importantly, all these efforts converged towards patients and the hospital environment. Many nurses today observe these by taking good care of patients, advocating for a clean environment and healthy diet.

She viewed health as a general additive process that would be realized through environmental, psychological, and physical soundness and not merely the absence of illness as defined by other organizations. Nightingale believed that any disease was meant to prepare the entire body to handle a problem and offer an opportunity for one to grow spiritually (McDonald, 2001). This is to say that Nightingale’s theory concentrated on maintaining good health for people through proper maintenance of the environment. According to this theory, nurses around the world are tasked to manipulate the environment and ensure that it is healthy for the easy recovery of patients. The five components that were highly advocated for by Nightingale were: pure water, cleanliness, clean air, light and efficient drainage. These are still acknowledged by nurses in their daily practice.

Unlike other health models proposed by medical practitioners in history, Nightingale’s model views personal health from a holistic point of view that incorporates spiritual, intellectual, and psychological attributes (McDonald, 2001). She defined a nurse based on this model as a person that has charge of the health of an individual. Her definition and theories have significantly impacted nursing practice in the 21st century; nurses understand their profession better and advocate for Nightingale in their daily duties. Sanitation and good patient diet are highly favored, ideas that were put forth by Nightingale (Dossey, 2010).


From the above synthesis, it is evident that Florence Nightingale’s contribution to nursing practice was immense and highly reputable. Her theories are still applicable and alive in nursing despite the fact that they were put forth more than a century ago. According to her model, nursing widely contributes to the restoration of health through good environmental management. Based on her model, health is the function of the interplay between the patient, nurse and the environment. However, her education, involvement in the Crimea War and spiritual growth nurtured her passion (Strachey, 2002). Her model remains a source of influence in the 21st century as nurses highly value patient environment and diet in promoting quick recovery.


Arnstein, M. (1956). Florence Nightingale’s Influence on Nursing. Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 32(7), 540–546.

Dossey, B. (2010). Holistic nursing: from Florence nightingale’s historical legacy to 21st-century global nursing. Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine, 16 (5), 14-16.

Berman, A., Snyder, S., & Kozier, B. (2008). Kozier & Erb’s Fundamentals of Nursing: Concepts, Process, and Practice. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

David, S., & Sherratt, A. (2010). Lamp light on leadership: clinical leadership and Florence Nightingale. Journal of Nursing Management, 18 (2), 115-121.

McDonald, L. (2001).Florence Nightingale and the early origins of evidence-based nursing. Evidence Based Nursing, 4, 68-69.

Landsberg, M. (2011). Florence Nightingale: At First Hand. Herizons, 25 (2), 38-38.

Strachey, L. (2002).Florence Nightingale: Founder of Modern Nursing. A journal of the Art and Science of Medicine, 2(1), 1.

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