Florence Nightingale’s Story Continues to Inspire

As the pioneer of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale is one of the most easily recognized names in the medical community. Just about any nursing book you can get your hands on is likely to mention her name at least once. She’s best known for her compassion and care for her patients, her efforts to spread proper sanitation techniques throughout field and civilian hospitals, and using money awarded to her for her efforts in the Crimean War to open her own nursing school.

But in addition to these accomplishments, what legacy did Florence leave in terms of her spirit? And how can she continue to inspire us?

A Model of Determination

One of the most admirable things about Florence is how dedicated she was to her pursuit of a meaningful career. This tenacious young women knew that nursing was her calling as early as her teenage years. This was at a time, in the 1930s, when the profession was considered to be lowly, menial labor by the upper-class society of which her family was a part. Florence’s mother was particularly averse to her daughter’s goals. Nevertheless, Florence persisted, and despite the lack of support from her parents, she was able to convince them to allow her to travel to Germany and begin her nursing studies.

I think about Florence’s early commitment to her career goals and compare that to when I was 17. At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life — my biggest concerns were simply getting my driver’s license and saving up enough money to afford a concert I wanted to attend. Unlike Florence, I wasn’t thinking about others, and I wasn’t hungry for a career deeply involved in human service. I was much too absorbed in my own life and what I was doing in the moment to have such lofty goals.

But Florence never wavered from a steady path. Throughout her life, she continued to fight for her dream and to help others, even when the odds were stacked against her.

An Unfailing Commitment

Florence’s passion for nursing was evident to others from the start: She was promoted to superintendent of a women’s hospital in London fairly early in her career. And just a few years later, the British army, which had previously been leery of having female nurses in the field, asked her to put together a nurse corps to come aid their wounded in the Crimean War. It was here that Florence became known as “the lady with the lamp” — the nickname came from the comfort the soldiers felt at seeing her come to check on them.

When Florence herself fell sick, she didn’t let illness stop her. She became bedridden due to chronic brucellosis in 1959, but she continued her efforts to improve health care through her writings. Later, she even helped push for better medical care in India, a colony of Great Britain at that time.

Again, I start comparing myself to Florence: Whenever I’m sick, all I want to do is crawl under the covers and sleep until I feel better. I can’t imagine what I would do if my health failed me so completely that I couldn’t leave my home or bed. Florence’s determination and commitment to her calling in these circumstances is truly something in which to aspire.

An Inspirational Legend

Florence Nightingale was an incredibly determined, driven woman. Her willingness to go against societal norms and unfair circumstances to attain her goals and help others is an incredible inspiration. Learning about her life makes me rethink my own doubts about myself and feel like I can achieve goals I might have written off as too lofty or farfetched.

Her story teaches us all that it’s worth it to persevere, no matter the obstacles. While her reputation as the founder of modern nursing might be what she’s best known for, her legacy of determination and endurance is just as important.

Happy Birthday, Miss Nightingale. Thank you for continuing to show us the light.

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