I’m not sure what I make of Florence Nightingale if I’m honest. There is no doubt she was an extraordinary figure, one that pursued her vision and was incredibly famous – in her lifetime and beyond. Scan through Hansard records from her lifetime and you’ll find numerous mentions of her.
In 1875, the record says that a Mr Stanford reprimanding a fellow member of parliament said “there could not be any definition of the faculties, career, and work of that admirable and extraordinary woman more inaccurate and more incompetent than the definition of her as simply being an admirable nurse.” and instead, that her work “had been the work of a great reformer and great administrator”.
She was certainly not shy of rolling up her sleeves and getting political. There are several references to petitions, views of Miss Nightingale and letters signed not just by her but she seems to have understood the power of standing with others as her signature went alongside those of others.
She gave her opinion, and her opinion carried weight:
“The Report quoted Miss Nightingale as an authority in favour of the hospital, but he (Mr. A. Stafford) called on the House to suspend its judgment until the documents which Miss Nightingale had put in before the Commission of the Army Medical Department were laid before the House.” – 1857 (when she was 37)
“He had no doubt that when Miss Nightingale went over the Woolwich Hospital she found everything there in a most satisfactory condition.” – 1857 (when she was 37)
“Taking the case of the building of the barracks in India: every hon. Member in that House respected Miss Nightingale, who had done so much good for our soldiers; but that lady, having gone out to India and seen the condition of the barracks there, had put such pressure upon that House, and upon the Secretary of State, that no less than £12,000,000 had been spent upon the erection of new barracks there which were practically of very little use, and, therefore, that money might be said to have been thrown away in pursuit of this philanthropic object.” – 1879
So, what would she think of Nursing today?
Well I think she would likely be a ferocious advocate for the profession and for patients. She clearly knew how to influence and had a clear strategy for doing so. I think she would approve of the regulations around the profession because they ultimately uphold key values that both protect the profession and patients. I think she would approve of nurses being highly educated and of them using this intelligence to advance patient care and safety. She would be designing and implementing cutting edge research and would be well published.
I think she would use modern Unions as a catalyst and I think she would absolutely be on twitter, TV and use any modern means at her disposal to get to the heart of what needs to change for the better and parliament would again know her name. I think she would be a strong voice in her own right but she would also gather those who were likeminded and be relentless in her pursuit of excellence in patient care and safety.