What if Florence Nightingale Could See Us Now?

Florence Nightingale used her nursing skills and knowledge to help save many lives during the Crimean War. We learned a lot from her, but was it enough? What would Florence say if she saw how we are battling our own war today? Nurses General Nursing Article

What if Florence Nightingale Could See Us Now?

What would she say?

“I am so proud of you!”

During this Covid pandemic, nurses have been teaching patients and the public about proper handwashing. When I worked as a Covid nurse, we were tested to see just how well we washed our hands – many failed -- the blue light got them!  The light showed how many “germs” were left on the hands after they had washed them. It was a great learning experience not to mention an eye-opener!  If she had not been so adamant about proper handwashing, this pandemic would be far worse. Teaching the public about proper handwashing has been paramount to getting control over this virus. 

What WOULD she say if she could see us now?

"You are doing great! Keep up the good work!”

Her guidelines, nursing skills and knowledge at the beginning of her career saved a lot of lives during the war. Thanks to her teachings and education nurses have used that training and knowledge and put it to good use for our own “Crimean War”.  After all, this pandemic has been a war to kill a deadly virus and save lives -- and it is not over!

What would she say if she could see us now? 

"Overworked and underpaid!"

Talk about being overworked and underpaid!  Florence Nightingale certainly was! She would completely understand this complaint. She got no pay!  Can you imagine what it must have like working for no pay in a war? Plus the fact she had no specialized training as a nurse, yet she knew what was needed and put her knowledge and skills to life-saving work. In fact, she had military leaders who would not listen to her instructions regarding proper handwashing and waste disposal, as well as other ways to save lives because she was intimidating, and she was a woman and no military training. They simply could not have a “nurse” telling them how to deal with death and disease, not to mention a war!  As mentioned, Florence was not a nurse. She did not have formal training as a nurse, but she was well trained and very highly educated and had a gift for taking care of patients. She said it was her “calling”.  It took time, but the military leaders finally listened. Talk about patience!

What would she say if she could see us now? 

"Have patience, do your best and keep up the good work."

I believe she would be astounded at what “war” we are facing. Her war was a real, blood-and-guts war with people dying from diseases and fatal wounds. As a nurse, I cannot imagine what she experienced back then.

Since last year, our war on the Covid-19 virus has also taken thousands of lives. We have faced a virus that is relentless and many times deadly. I am glad we had her guidance and education to help us deal with our war on Covid-19.

And I know she would be immensely proud of all nurses, whether you worked with Covid patients or knew someone with Covid, or had it yourself, it does not matter – we have all been in this together.  

What else would Florence Nightingale say if she could see us now?  

“Here wear this mask, it is safer.”

Masks: What kind of mask do you think she would wear?  Would she design her own mask and say “here wear this mask, it is safer.”  I think so; after all, she figured out good hand hygiene and sewer and drainage issues making for a safer environment and saving lives, why not a mask?

I also believe she would have made masks for the military to protect them, including the ole mean and determined-not-to-listen generals and other leaders. She would want their lives protected as much as patients and nurses.  She was that kind of person. She probably would laugh at some of the masks made today -- and worry about ones made just for looks and not protection.

“Okay, guys, I’ve got this!”

I think she would probably feel a little frustrated with CDC and a few higher-up doctors. Their guidelines keep changing on social distancing and what kind of mask to wear and how many, and I think she would finally step in and say, “Okay, guys, I’ve got this!”

Florence Nightingale was a leader, a highly intelligent leader.  She knew her stuff and she knew nursing like no one else.  She is the epitome of nursing.

It has been a marathon, but we are winning!

I think when all said and done, we would hear her said loud and clear:

“Well done! You did it! You were listening after all!”

Susan Wessman, LVN

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Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

I think that Florence Nightingale would be proud of where the profession of nursing has gone since her time. Nurses in her time played a specific role in the care of patients and I think that she would be very excited to see how nurses have become an integral part of the care team for patients, often guiding the doctor to make the best decisions for patients, and their families.