Florence Nightingale’s Biography & Greatest Accomplishments

Achievements and humanitarian undertakings during the Crimean War

As the Crimean War raged on, media reports began trickling into the country concerning the absolutely appalling conditions injured British soldiers faced at the Scutari military hospital in Constantinople (present day Istanbul). Florence Nightingale was taken aback by those reports and with every fiber in her bone decided to do something.

Joining forces with some of her colleagues in London, Nightingale packed and left for the Ottoman Empire. She was in the company of almost 40 women volunteer nurses, many of whom she trained, including her aunt Mai Smith. Nightingale and her volunteer nurses departed London on October 21, 1854. A month later, they made their way to the Selimiye Barracks in Scutari (present day, Uskudar district, Istanbul, Turkey).

Nightingale quickly had to contend with issues such as stressed-out and overworked medical workers, insufficient medicine, poor sanitary conditions, and inadequate ventilation in the hospital. Those challenges in turn caused the infection rates in the hospital to spike.

Florence Nightingale – quotes – Nightingale said she preferred building friendship with powerful men, claiming that men often helped advance her causes better than women.

She inspired the construction of Renkioi Hospital – a prefabricated hospital with improved sanitary conditions

A competent statistician in her own right, Nightingale was able to provide statistics about the horrifying condition of the military hospital in Crimea. She made her plea, backed with those appalling figures, through the British daily newspaper The Times

With the help of Sidney Herbert –a politician and later Secretary of War that she met in 1847 – Florence Nightingale’s plea for better health conditions in the hospital got answered. The British government tasked famous civil and maritime engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel to design and build a prefabricated hospital that would ease the sufferings of injured British soldiers in Crimea.

Less than half a year after Nightingale’s plea for help, Isambard and his team of engineers had successfully built a prefabricated hospital that was ready to be shipped to Crimea. The hospital, which measured about 90 feet (27 m) by 40 feet (12 m), came with two hospital wards that could accommodate about 50 patients. It was deemed a great success as it included basic health features, from the hygiene, sanitation, drainage to ventilation. Isambard even built in temperature controls into the hospital.

Nightingale’s efforts led to the reduction in death rates during the Crimean War

Although, the Renkioi Hospital did not fall under the management of Nightingale, the fact that she helped raise awareness of the conditions in Crimea makes her contributions very vital. After the medical facility was introduced, Nightingale reported that the death rate in the hospital fell significantly.

According to the famed English surgeon Stephen Paget (1855-1926), Nightingale’s efforts in addition to the prefabricated Renkioi Hospital caused the death rate to fall from 42% to 2%. Nightingale encouraged medical workers to wash hands frequently and follow all the health and safety protocols. Sewers, a breeding ground for countless diseases, were flushed out. So was the issue of overcrowding, as she decongested the wards, which in turn allowed for greater air circulation.

In typical fashion of the British nurse, Florence Nightingale never took credit for the drop in death rates, as she preferred to modest. | Image: Painting of Nightingale by Augustus Egg, c. 1840s

Campaigned for the improvement of sanitary conditions in army hospitals

On the back of a very important volunteer job in Crimea, Florence Nightingale returned to Britain to intensify her advocacy for improved sanitary conditions in hospitals. She explained how many injured soldiers lost their lives because sanitary conditions in the hospital were anything but poor.

Also, she worked with engineers in designing hospitals and medical facilities that incorporated hygiene and ventilation necessities. Her efforts were not solely confined to hospitals as she also campaigned for homes across the UK to take sanitation issues very seriously.

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