The Story of Florence Nightingale

NursingApril 20, 2017

All nurses today follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale, who is known as the pioneer of modern nursing. Her hard work and life-long devotion to helping others made her a hero, leaving modern nursing candidates with big shoes to fill. Being a nurse…much less being like Florence Nightingale…requires skill, determination and devotion to patients.

Each year on May 6th, the annual National Nurses Week kicks off to support those dedicating their lives to helping others, with festivities finishing on Nightingale's birthday, May 12th.

Nightingale Early Life

Nightingale was born to an affluent family during the 1820s in Florence, Italy. From a young age, she was very involved in helping ill, poor people at a neighboring village and realized nursing was her God-given calling. Back then, pursuing a career in nursing, especially coming from upper class, was frowned upon. However, this didn’t stop her. According to, Nightingale enrolled in a nursing program at the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses in Kaiserwerth, Germany in the 1850s. After her formal education, Nightingale began her career at a Harley Street hospital in London and was immediately promoted to superintendent for her outstanding performance.

Following the Battle of Alma at the start of the Crimean War, notes that  England was distraught about the lack of care for its sick and injured soldiers who needed medical attention but were confined to centers with terrible sanitary conditions. The Secretary of War sent a letter to Nightingale asking her to organize a group of nurses to care for the soldiers.

Given full control of this operation, she traveled to Constantinople with a team of nurses. Upon their arrival at the base hospital in Constantinople, they realized conditions were even worse than they had thought. The hospital was located on top of a large cesspool, which contaminated water systems and the building itself. Nightingale immediately ordered her team to clean the building from floor to ceiling, then spent all her time caring for soldiers. She also started a kitchen solely for patients who needed special diets, and a laundry to maintain clean linens. Nightingale remained there until the Crimean War conflict was resolved and, when she returned home she was welcomed as a hero. Her work had reduced the hospital’s death rate drastically.

Nightingale Rewarded for Her Work

According to, the year before she returned, Queen Victoria rewarded her work with an engraved brooch known as the “Nightingale Jewel” and a $250,000 prize. She decided to use this money to create the Nightingale Training School for Nurses, becoming a public figure who continued devoting her time to nursing and writing until her death in 1910.

If you want to be like Florence, Fortis Colleges and Institutes throughout the U.S. prepare students with the education and skills to begin a successful nursing career. To learn more, visit our site.