May 6 – Hello, Nurse!

Today’s Factismal: It is International Nurses Week. Have you hugged a nurse today?

Though it is hard to imagine, there once were no nurses. At least, there weren’t any professionally trained ones. Instead, friends and family would try to take care of a patient while also taking care of the farm or working in the office. A doctor would provide treatment by setting a broken bone or removing a busted appendix, but then the doctor would head off to the next patient and you’d be at the tender mercies of people who had no idea what they were doing.

The situation was bad enough for civilians, but it was even worse for soldiers in the field. While hurried and harried doctors did their best to keep casualties from becoming statistics, they needed someone who could free them to work on the new cases. They needed someone with nerves of steel, a brain full of medical knowledge, and a heart of gold. And, in 1854, they got Florence Nightingale.

During the Crimean war, Florence took a band of 38 women that she had trained in basic medical knowledge to the British medical camp in Turkey. They found a camp rife with disease and poor nutrition. Working tirelessly, they turned it into a haven where soldiers could recover. With the aid of the sanitation corps, who flushed out the clogged drains and freed the camp from the grip of typhus and dysentery, the death rate dropped to the point that soldiers no longer feared the hospital more than the battlefield.

Florence Nightingale, the first modern nurse (Image courtesy Edward Cook)

Florence Nightingale, the first modern nurse
(Image courtesy Edward Cook)

Following the war, Florence continued her mission. She established schools of nursing and trained others in basic medical care. Known as “the lady with the lamp” due to her habit of prowling the floors late at night to take care of those who took ill during the night, Florence soon became a beacon to the world. By the time she died in 1910, she would see nursing established as a true medical profession and be honored in nursing schools across the globe.

Her work continues today. And in honor of her work and her birthday on May 12, this week is International Nurses Week. If you’d like to show your gratitude for nurses, then why not put a pin in the World Gratitude Map showing where you’ve been helped by a nurse?  And be sure to hug a nurse!

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