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Florence Nightingale, a nurse, spent her night rounds giving personal care to the wounded, establishing her image as the 'Lady with the Lamp.'
During the Crimean War Florence Nightingale organized a corps of nurses to care for soldiers, thus beginning her foray into the world of medical care and treatment.
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She instituted the creation of an "invalid’s kitchen" where appealing food for patients with special dietary requirements was cooked. She established a laundry so that patients would have clean linens. She also instituted a classroom and a library, for patients’ intellectual stimulation and entertainment. Based on her observations in the Crimea, Nightingale wrote Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army,
an 830-page report analyzing her experience and proposing reforms for other military hospitals operating under poor conditions. The book would spark a total restructuring of the War Office’s administrative department, including the establishment of a Royal Commission for the Health of the Army in 1857.
Nightingale remained at Scutari for a year and a half. She left in the summer of 1856, once the Crimean conflict was resolved, and returned to her childhood home at Lea Hurst. To her surprise she was met with a hero’s welcome, which the humble nurse did her best to avoid. The Queen rewarded Nightingale’s work by presenting her with an engraved brooch that came to be known as the "Nightingale Jewel" and by granting her a prize of $250,000 from the British government.
Nightingale 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. Nightingale became a figure of public admiration. Poems, songs and plays were written and dedicated in the heroine’s honor. Young women aspired to be like her. Eager to follow her example, even women from the wealthy upper classes started enrolling at the training school. Thanks to Nightingale, nursing was no longer frowned upon by the upper classes; it had, in fact, come to be viewed as an honorable vocation.
While at Scutari, Nightingale had contracted "Crimean fever" and would never fully recover. By the time she was 38 years old, she was homebound and bedridden, and would be so for the remainder of her life. Fiercely determined, and dedicated as ever to improving health care and alleviating patients’ suffering, Nightingale continued her work from her bed.
Residing in Mayfair, she remained an authority and advocate of health care reform, interviewing politicians and welcoming distinguished visitors from her bed. In 1859, she published Notes on Hospitals, which focused on how to properly run civilian hospitals.
Throughout the U.S. Civil War, she was frequently consulted about how to best manage field hospitals. Nightingale also served as an authority on public sanitation issues in India for both the military and civilians, although she had never been to India herself.
In 1908, at the age of 88, she was conferred the merit of honor by King Edward. In May of 1910, she received a congratulatory message from King George on her 90th birthday.
In August 1910, Florence Nightingale fell ill, but seemed to recover and was reportedly in good spirits.
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