This story was originally published on Oct. 7, 2010.
Widely considered the most famous nurse in history, Florence Nightingale was born in Italy to British parents on May 12, 1820. Much to the chagrin of her prominent family, she chose to become a nurse in 1844 after she was inspired by what she referred to as a call from God.
Nightingale served as a volunteer nurse during the Crimean War and became known as “The Lady with the Lamp” as she made patient rounds at night. Nightingale was horrified by the conditions for wounded soldiers, and her experience during the war inspired her to help reform the British health system.
Nightingale is considered a pioneer in the use of statistics and in improving sanitary practices in health care. Another part of her lasting legacy is “Notes on Nursing,” which she wrote in 1859 and is still considered a classic introduction to the field. The Nightingale School for Nurses, which opened in 1860, is credited as the first training program for nurses.
The Nightingale Pledge, named in her honor in 1893, is a traditional pledge still taken by some new nurses. It says:
“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.”
Nightingale’s devotion to compassionate care is one of the reasons that she has been called the founder of modern nursing. She died on Aug. 13, 1910.