Women's History Month: 5 Facts about Florence Nightingale

As part of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Florence Nightingale, the extraordinary woman who changed the face of nursing and became the namesake of the Nightingale Hospital on Frenchay Campus.

This time last year, work began on Frenchay campus to build Bristol’s Nightingale Hospital. It was specially built to provide care for patients with COVID-19 and although it was never used for its intended purpose, it has become a part of Bristol’s history. 

But how did it get its name? 

As part of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Florence Nightingale, the extraordinary woman who changed the face of nursing and became the COVID-19 Hospital’s namesake.

Here’s what you need to know: 

She became a nurse despite the stigma

In Victorian Britain, a wealthy woman’s job was to marry and look after the home, so when Florence announced that she had dreams of becoming a nurse, her family weren’t exactly best pleased. A career in nursing didn’t fit the stereotype for females at the time and was considered a low class job, often associated with alcoholism and prostitution. Florence was determined though and eventually she was allowed to study nursing which led to her running a women’s hospital in London just 3 years later.



She is considered the founder of modern nursing

Florence made such a name for herself at the hospital that she was asked to lead a team of nurses in the Crimean War. It was there that she saw just how badly the hospital conditions were affecting the wounded soldiers and worked hard to make improvements. Along with her team, Florence cleaned the wards, set up a kitchen in the hospital and put a new spin on patient care by bathing the soldiers, dressing their wounds and feeding them, rather than simply treating their illnesses. This level of care and cleanliness is what led to the standard of nursing that we know today.



Her nickname was ‘The Lady with the Lamp’

During the war, Florence would visit her patients in the night to make sure they were comfortable. She went above and beyond her duties by providing blankets for the soldiers, bringing them meals and writing letters home on behalf of those who couldn’t do it themselves.
Since Florence carried a lantern with her on her night visits, the soldiers would refer to her as ‘The Lady with the Lamp’.



There’s a reason Nightingale Hospitals were named after her

The current pandemic has really highlighted the similarities between Florence Nightingale’s experiences and those of nursing staff today, making the names of the COVID Hospitals even more relevant.
As well as hand washing and infection control, accurate data was also high on her list of priorities. You might remember that there were problems with data at the start of lockdown, such as reporting the number of COVID-19 cases over a weekend leading to a spike of deaths in the data on a Monday. Similarly, Florence Nightingale discovered that her patients were only counted once a week, so any soldiers who were admitted after the weekly count and died before the next one weren’t on record. She realised that better measures were needed so that soldiers’ families could be informed and became a pioneer of using diagrams to get her points across.



Her birthday is International Nurses Day

Florence was born on 12 May, which is now when we mark International Nurses Day. As well as honouring Florence Nightingale’s memory and her extraordinary contributions to nursing, it’s also a day when we celebrate our hard-working student nurses. Over the last few years, The Students’ Union has held a number of activities, events and promotions at Glenside campus. Things might look a little different this year but that won’t stop us from celebrating, so pop the date in your diary and keep an eye out for more information on what we’ve got planned!