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In the pandemic we hear a lot of mention of "Nightingale Hospitals", even "Nightingale Courts"! Two hundred years ago, in 1820, Florence Nightingale was born - someone who was to change the face of healthcare and nursing worldwide. She was born in Florence (hence her name), and died one-hundred and ten years ago, buried in this county of Hampshire, at St Margaret of Antioch in the village of East Wellow. 

FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE was born two hundred years ago in 1820,

and named after the Italian city of her birth.

Her wealthy parents were in Florence at the time

as part of a tour of Europe.

In 1837, Florence felt that God

was calling her to do some work

but she wasn't sure what that work should be.

She began to develop an interest in nursing,

but her parents considered it to be a profession

inappropriate to a woman of her class and background

and would not allow her to train as a nurse.

Kaiserwerth Training Hospital

They expected her to make a good marriage and live a conventional upper-class woman's life.Her parents eventually relented and in 1851, she went to Kaiserwerth in Germany

for three months nursing training.

This enabled her to become superintendent of a hospital for gentlewomen in Harley Street, in 1853.

The following year, the Crimean War began, and soon reports in the newspapers were describing the desperate lack of proper medical facilities for wounded British soldiers at the front. In late 1854, she received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea.

Given full control of the operation, she quickly assembled a team of almost three dozen nurses from a variety of religious orders and sailed with them to the Crimea just a few days later.

Although they had been warned of the horrid conditions there,

nothing could have prepared Nightingale and her nurses

for what they saw when they arrived at Scutari,

the British base hospital in Constantinople.

The hospital sat on top of a large cesspool,

which contaminated the water and the building itself.

Patients lay in their own excrement

on stretchers strewn throughout the hallways.

Rodents and bugs scurried past them.

The most basic supplies, such as bandages and soap,

grew increasingly scarce as the number of ill and wounded steadily increased.

Even water needed to be rationed.

More soldiers were dying from infectious diseases

like typhoid and cholera than from injuries incurred in battle.

The no-nonsense Nightingale quickly set to work.

She procured hundreds of scrub brushes

and asked the least infirm patients to scrub the inside of the hospital

from floor to ceiling.

Nightingale herself spent every waking minute

caring for the soldiers.

In the evenings she moved through the dark hallways

carrying a lamp while making her rounds,

ministering to patient after patient.

The soldiers, who were both moved and comforted

by her endless supply of compassion,

took to calling her "the Lady with the Lamp."

Others simply called her "the Angel of the Crimea."

Her work reduced the hospital’s death rate by two-thirds.

In 1855 Queen Victoria honoured her work

by presenting her with an engraved brooch

that came to be known as the "Nightingale Jewel"

and by granting her a substantial sum of money

from the British government.

Florence decided to use the money to further her cause.

In 1860, she funded the establishment of St. Thomas' Hospital,

and within it, the Nightingale Training School for Nurses.

Nurses-in-Training at St Thomas's with Florence Nightingale

Once the nurses were trained, they were sent to hospitals all over Britain,

where they introduced the ideas they had learned,

and established nursing training on the Nightingale model.

Nightingale's theories, published in 'Notes on Nursing' (1860),

were hugely influential and her concerns for sanitation,

military health and hospital planning established practices

which are still in existence today.

Young women aspired to be like her.

Thanks to Nightingale, nursing was no longer frowned upon

by the upper classes; it had, in fact, come to be viewed as an honourable vocation.

She devoted the rest of her life to improving public health

and standards of hospital care, taking nursing out of the dark ages.

She died on 13 August 1910.


Come apart to a quiet place,

and find yourself in the peaceful presence of God. May this silence quieten you, touch your need,

refresh your courage, enlarge your wonder.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world:

a light no darkness can quench.

Even the darkness is not dark for you, Lord: and the night shines like the day.

Let your light scatter the darkness:

and fill your world with your glory.

John 1.5; 8.12; Psalm 139.12;

In a dark and disfigured world

we have often failed to hold out the light of life: Lord, have mercy

In a hungry and despairing world

we have often failed to share our bread: Christ, have mercy.

In a cold and loveless world

we have often kept the love of God to ourselves: Lord, have mercy.

Light in our darkness, you shine upon us as the morning star of hope.

Light of the World, come, transform us,

create us as light and gift to one another and to all creation.

Life-giving God, you alone have power over life and death,

over health and sickness: Give power, wisdom, and gentleness

to those who follow the lead of your servant Florence Nightingale,

that they, bearing with them your presence,

may not only heal but bless,

and shine as lanterns of hope in the darkest hours of pain and fear;

through Jesus Christ, the healer of body and soul,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

SCRIPTURE. Isaiah 58.6–11 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear-guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.

We are sent in the name of God, whose paths are faithfulness; to confront injustice and work to make our world the place of God’s promise. May God bless us and keep us; May God 's face shine upon us, be gracious to us and give us peace.

May God be a light to our path

and a lamp to dispel our darkness.

Florence Nightingale's Burial place and Memorial, East Wellow

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