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Florence Nightingale

flo-photo600Throughout 2020, Guy's and St Thomas' will be celebrating the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale.

In 1860, Florence established the first professional nursing school in the world at St Thomas' Hospital. She founded London’s Nightingale School of Nursing, which raised the reputation of nursing as a profession.

It had a global impact and notable students included Linda Richards, America's first trained nurse.

Florence also influenced the design of the wards at St Thomas' Hospital by proposing full height windows to provide better light and ventilation.

  • Her achievements

    Born on 12 May 1820, Florence became the founder of modern nursing.

    During the Crimean War she improved conditions at a British base hospital, which resulted in far fewer soldiers dying from their injuries.

    This led to Queen Victoria awarding Florence a jewelled brooch in 1855, designed by her husband Prince Albert, as a "mark of esteem and gratitude for her devotion towards the Queen's brave soldiers".

    Florence's achievements were truly remarkable. She was awarded the first Royal Red Cross, and was the first woman inducted into the Order of Merit.

    On 13 August 1910, at the age of 90, she died peacefully in her sleep in Mayfair, London.

  • The Nightingale Nurse Award

    To honour Florence's legacy and support the development of nurses and midwives, Guy's and St Thomas' has launched The Nightingale Nurse Award.

    It recognises the Trust’s most outstanding nurses and midwives, and involves them completing a programme of work, which is accredited by King's College London.

    Once completed they receive a badge, certificate and have the honour of being known as a 'Nightingale Nurse'. 

    The Trust is also supporting the Nightingale Challenge, which encourages hospitals across the world to provide leadership and development training for 20,000 young nurses and midwives by 2020.

    The campaign calls on large employers of nurses to give at least 20 young nurses and midwives the skills they need to play an even more influential role in delivering healthcare.

  • The Florence Nightingale Museum

    Tucked away in the basement of St Thomas' Hospital, the museum brings Florence's legacy to life through its unique collections, art and interactive displays.

    The museum opened in 1989 and today houses approximately 3,000 items including letters, Florence's iconic lantern which earned her the nickname of the Lady with the Lamp, and even a medicine chest which was brought back from Crimea.

    Find out more about the museum and planning your trip by visiting the Florence Nightingale Museum website.

  • Florence facts

    1. Although we think of Florence as a British heroine, she was actually born in Florence, Italy.
    2. Florence’s very first patient was a sheepdog. She nursed "Cap" back to health after his leg was badly bruised.
    3. In 1837, she dreamt God had a great mission for her, which led her to consider nursing. Her parents were less than pleased with her decision to become a nurse, as this was not a well-respected field at the time. Despite their objections, her mind was made up and three years later she was running a women’s hospital in London.
    4. Florence refused to get married and turned down several proposals. These included one from her cousin.
    5. Florence didn’t like having her picture taken or painted – so these are relatively rare.
    6. In addition to English, Florence was fluent in German, Italian and French. She also had a good understanding of Latin and Greek.
    7. In 1851, she received three months training at a hospital in Germany.
    8. Florence was a talented mathematician and fan of the pie chart. She was an early adopter of this statistical tool. She was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Statistical Society.
    9. In the early 1850s, she had a pet baby owl called Athena, which she carried around in her pocket. Florence Nightingale recognised how well animals provided emotional support for patients, and she is sometimes recognised as a founder of modern pet therapy.FlorenceOwl
    10. Florence worked in London in the early 1850s, but in 1854, the British Secretary of War asked her to organise a group of nurses to serve the wounded soldiers in Crimea. A lesser known fact about this time is that Florence often wrote letters home for dying or dead soldiers.
    11. Florence was admired by Queen Victoria who sent a special thank you brooch to the Crimea. They met for the first time in 1856.
    12. While working at the British base hospital in Constantinople, she contracted a bacterial infection known as "Crimean fever".  Florence never fully recovered from this infection. Although she lived to 90, she was often confined to her bed in the latter half of her life.
    13. In 1859, Florence Nightingale wrote a book about caring for the sick called Notes on Nursing.
    14. In the 1870s, Florence worked with the government to push for legislation to significantly improve sanitation.
    15. Florence inspired Red Cross founder Henry Dunant. She went on to directly influence the setting up of the British Red Cross in 1870.
    16. In 1883, Nightingale was awarded the first Royal Red Cross by Queen Victoria. She was the first woman inducted into the Order of Merit in 1907.
    17. She inspired the famous poem "Santa Filomena" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
    18. International Nurses Day is celebrated on Florence’s birthday – May 12.


Nursing careers

To find out more about nursing careers at Guy's and St Thomas' visit our nursing careers page.