N is for Florence Nightingale, Nurse, #AtoZ Challenge
This special entry is by one of my fellow authors of my new book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls – the wonderful and talented Jan Dean!
Florence Nightingale is famous for being the ‘Lady with the Lamp’ – the woman who organised the nursing of sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War, where she ran the hospital in the Scutari Barracks.
Her greatest achievement was to transform nursing into a respectable profession for women and in 1860, she established the first professional training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital.
Florence’s influence today includes:
- ward designs (known as Nightingale Wards), which she developed when she realised that hospital buildings themselves could affect the health and recovery of patients
- infection control measures
- the championing of a healthy diet as a key factor for recovery.
- specialist midwifery nurses – she established a School of Midwifery nursing at King’s College Hospital which became a model for the country.
Nightingale is also credited with inventing the pie chart and was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Statistical Society. She was also the first woman to be awarded the Freedom of the City of London, which she received in 1909.
She inspired the founding of the International Red Cross which still awards the Florence Nightingale Medal for nurses who have given exceptional care to the sick and wounded in war or peace.
Miss Nightingale’s War
she did not sit and mop a fevered brow
she was not gentle by a bedside
she was about the numbers
the running total of the dead
who never should have died
it wasn’t cannon fire that killed them
not bayonets or bullets
gangrene devoured them
and Nightingale was powerless to stop it
the enemy was filth
the squalor of the wards
the soldiers stretchered-in alive with lice
their uniforms a mass of blood and dirt
no towels no washbowls
think now of one slow-motion bullet
singing through the air at Balaclava
making for the shoulder of a young enlisted man –
it hits the woollen fabric of his coat
cuts through it to his cambric shirt
from shirt it shoots through saltsweat skin
to muscle ligament and bone
speeds out again (a through-and-through)
into the howling of the battlefield
to fall into the mud –
the hole will heal the shoulder mend
but still that bullet carried death
it took the fibres of his foul-stained clothes
and pushed them deep inside his flesh
and there they brewed and bred bacteria
she knew she fought a losing battle
a woman nursing in Scutari Barracks
would drown in drudgery
be lost for want of bandages and fresh washed bedding
so she collected evidence
she took the numbers of the dead
and made a fist of them to punch the army with
she was not tender was not nice
she was a force who loved the desperate
and saved them with the sharp blade of statistics
© Jan Dean
If you’d like to read about more extraordinary women, why not buy the book Reaching the Stars, Poems about Extraordinary Women and Girls, by me, Jan Dean and Michaela Morgan – link below, press on book!
(Which you can visit opposite the Houses of Parliament in London)
St Thomas’ Hospital
2 Lambeth Palace Road
T: +44 (0)20 7188 4400