For most people, the appearance of nursing is unknown. The professionals of this discipline and healthcare know that in the Crimean War (1853-1856) nursing was born, as a discipline dedicated to the care of people.
In that scenario, when the Russian Empire faced the league formed by England, France, the Ottoman Empire and the kingdom of Sardinia, in the Crimean peninsula, in the midst of battles, appeared the figure of Florence Nightingale, a British woman who, with a group of ladies, offered to take care of the injured.
Historians say that the doctors did not receive these women very well, they lodged them practically in an overcrowded area and, nevertheless, they accepted and with integrity began to take care of the wounded and sick, in the middle of the warlike conflict.
They received the first wounded of the battle of Baklava in the hospital of Scutari. The Turkish soldiers carried the sick on stretchers and threw them at the entrance to the hospital.
What was remarkable about Florence was that she started teamwork with the doctors. For example, she did not allow her nurses to improvise attention or get involved with the injured. They began their work with the patients from the initial care of the doctors.
It is possible that the cholera epidemic, which occurred in London in 1854, prepared her to care for the wounded on the battlefield. Initially, she started in the kitchen, where she realized that the ones who survived the battle died of hunger. To skip the excessive paperwork that they demanded in supplies and food, she initiated an extra diets plan in the kitchen and, thus, could provide a better nutritional support to the sick and provide better postoperative to the injured.
The main pathologies of the soldiers were dysentery, scurvy, and hunger. The sanitary conditions were deplorable: soldiers amputated without adequate hygiene, rooms for hospitalization without toilet and with mud from the streets, lack of clothes, which exposed the sick to infections and low temperatures…
Another important aspect was the cleaning of the latrines. Getting funds for this work was almost impossible with the Empire’s own bureaucracy. Then, Florence contributed money from a fund she had in London.
As the hospitalization rooms also required cleaning, she ordered 200 brushes for this job, changed the patients’ toilet tubs and set a routine for their washing. She got the families of the soldiers to help wash the clothes of the patients. In this way, she ensured a healthier and cleaner environment for patients. She managed to get summer uniforms changed for winter uniforms, to provide more heat to sick soldiers.
But Florence Nightingale was not only concerned about the physical health of the soldiers. She was aware of the state of mind and spiritual support of the sick too.
Her biographers say that, in May 1855, preventable deaths had decreased from 40% to 5%.
The story of the famous “Lady with the Lamp” shows how with common sense, intelligence and dedication nursing positioned itself in the world as the discipline that we know today as the safety of the patient.
Thanks to Nurse Nightingale, it was established that hospital epidemiology is positively sensitive to improvements, and that it is not enough with the doctor’s attention alone, but that the complementarity of nursing care is vital.
When the vocation of nursing professionals is found, it is when the contribution of this discipline to health is evidenced.
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