Happy Birthday, Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale is considered the pioneer of professional nursing because of her tireless efforts to prove her belief that patients could improve with care by skilled nurses. Nightingale’s nursing theories developed nursing practice and laid the foundation for formal nursing education still pertinent in today’s healthcare environment.

When Florence Nightingale, who came from a wealthy, aristocratic family decided she wanted to pursue a career in nursing, it was considered an unsuitable occupation for a woman of her social status. Nightingale fought hard to convince her family of her desire to be a nurse. Nurses at that time were not paid and were primarily nuns or women of questionable moral standing. Healthcare was segregated by social standing, and there were no standards or regulations for nursing practice that would establish nursing as a reputable position. Her family reluctantly agreed, but only because Nightingale was so strong in her desire to pursue a career in nursing.

From a young age, Nightingale was curious. A strong student, she excelled in mathematics and was a meticulous record keeper. The final acceptance and financial support by her family gave Nightingale the opportunity to continue her pursuit of nursing. She began her studies in earnest, reading all she could find on the profession and volunteering at hospitals. It was in her early years of volunteering that she noticed patients dying from common treatment practices, lack of sanitation and inequality of care. She began proving that by having adequate supplies and skilled nurses to meet patient’s basic needs, their demise could be prevented. She fought to have all individuals in need receive medical care regardless of social standing or ability to pay. Using a “new” technique called statistical analysis, she collected data from her systemized method of keeping medical records and discovered trends to support her claims of inadequacies of nursing practice. She presented her findings to a commission and was able to institute changes in practice.

Nightingale’s experiences during the Crimean War reinforced her concerns about nursing practice and led to the enormous impact she had on the field of nursing. In tending for wounded soldiers, she found deplorably unsanitary conditions. Soldiers crowded together with illnesses such as cholera, typhoid, lice and dysentery, they were poorly fed or bathed, bandages were rags with clotted blood and they were dying from conditions unrelated to their injuries. Nightingale believed there was a direct correlation between the patient’s environment and their health and recovery. She and her team worked diligently to create sanitary conditions which led to the development of Nightingale’s Environmental Theory, one of the nursing theories that has evolved to differentiate nursing as an independent practice from medicine.

Nightingale believed nursing was a profession in itself. Her Environmental Theory as described in Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing, is of all nursing theories the one that truly separates nursing from medicine. Nursing focuses on creating an environment of healing for the patient. The goal is to create an environment in which we work with the nature of healing and not against it. The environmental factors that affect health, as identified in the theory, are: fresh air, clean water, light, sufficient food supplies, cleanliness of the patient and environment, including bed and bedding, comfort, observation and emotional support. The Environment Theory of nursing is patient-centered, addressing the importance of creating an environment that meets a patient’s individual needs.

A Lasting Impact 

Patient management as described in Nightingale’s Environmental Theory is still pertinent in today’s nursing practice. Many of the battles Florence Nightingale fought in the 1800’s for improved patient care by providing care by qualified nurses are still being fought today. Attention to individual concerns and not the entirety of patient needs, such as treating the “hole” in the patient and not the “whole” patient, hand washing without maintaining a clean environment (patient room & bathroom), administering antibiotics without quality wound care or treating a pressure ulcer with limited focus on prevention, have directly affected outcomes, so much so that regulations are changing that will require positive outcomes for reimbursement of care.

The Center for Disease Control released a report entitled “Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States 2013” that states there are over 2 million incidents and at least a minimum of 23,000 deaths attributed to antibiotic resistant microorganisms in the United States each year. Cross-contamination is a serious risk factor for hospital acquired infections and can be prevented. Nursing is in a unique position to utilize the fundamentals of Nightingale’s Environmental Theory to control cross-contamination by controlling the patient/hospital environment helping to reduce the incidence of infection in the hospitalized patient.

EHOB is considerate of the risk of hospital acquired infection. Our static air products are protected with  a bacteria-fighting additive that is blended directly into the product during construction. Unlike topical treatments, which may lose their effectiveness after cleaning, the antibacterial properties of EHOB®’s formula remain active throughout the useful life of the product. Also available from EHOB is TIDISHIELD™ Disposable Pillow Barrier, a pillow cover that is 100% effective as a barrier to the migration of microorganisms, both ways: from the patient to the pillow and from the pillow to the patient. The TIDISHIELD™ Disposable Pillow Barrier can also be used over the WAFFLE  Heel Protection devices and Seat Cushions. Call or email EHOB today for a sample.

Every year, National Nurses Week is celebrated in May in conjunction with Florence Nightingale’s birthday. This May, we honor her lasting legacy and pledge to continue the good work she began for better patient health. 

Resources:

  1. http://nursing-theory.org/theories-and-models/nightingale
  2. Nightingale F, Notes on Nursing, What It Is and What It Is Not. New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc. 2007 edition, originally published 1859
  3. Blythe D, Keenlyside D, Dawson SJ and Galloway A, 1998. Environmental contamination due to methicillin-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA). Journal Hospital Infections 38:67-70