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Florence Nightingale’s Theory


Florence Nightingale, the great humanist and the sister of charity, is one of the most prominent figures of nursing theory and practice. After attending the Deaconess Institute at Kaiserswerth, Germany, Nightingale decided to become a sister of mercy while the Crimean War made her a national heroine. The soldiers returning from the front told stories, calling her “a lady with a lamp” due to the fact that she always walked around the wards at night like a kind angel (FrelloI & CarraroII, 2013). Throughout her life, Nightingale defended the equal rights of people to care and treatment during illness and to dignified death. The UK government appreciated this essential contribution to the development of medical care and nursing and awarded her the Royal Red Cross as well as one of the highest British orders “For Merit”.

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Analysis of Key Concepts and Major Relationships in the Theory

Nightingale is considered to be the first researcher and founder of contemporary nursing as she revolutionized the public consciousness and views on the role and place of a nurse in promoting public health. Acting as a pioneer, Nightingale distinguished between the following two areas: caring for sick and caring for healthy people, defining the first as helping a sufferer to live a full life and the latter as maintaining a person in a healthy state or disease prevention (Karimi & Alavi, 2015).

The theorist expressed a firm conviction that nursing essence as a profession differs from medical practice and requires specific nursing knowledge. For the first time in history of this field, she utilized systematic methods in solving problems of nursing.

It was Florence Nightingale who created a system of training of middle and junior medical personnel in the UK based on the establishment of the special nursing staff training school. Being autonomous and secular, the first schools appeared in Europe and then in the US. The theorist insisted that nurses are to be taught by their professional and certified colleagues, delivering health care in hospitals (Mcdonald, 2013).

At this point, particular attention was paid to the formation of nursing knowledge, skills, and values. Under professional values, she comprehended respect for a patient’s personality, his or her honor, dignity, and freedom, showing attention, love, and care and maintaining confidentiality along with professional responsibility (Karimi & Alavi, 2015). In this regard, the motto of the first honorary International Sister Society was declared as follows: love, courage, and honor.

It should also be outlined that Nightingale took a great part in the reorganization of the military medical service in England and Indian colonies and made sure that the hospitals were equipped with ventilation and sewage systems (FrelloI & CarraroII, 2013). Nightingale introduced the practice according to which the hospital staff was obliged to undergo the necessary training and adhere to strict statistical processing of all the information collected. Furthermore, this theorist organized the military nursing school and conducted the explanatory work on the significance of disease prevention.


Personal Relevance

Personally, I comprehend that sometimes nurses are engaged in complicated situations with a burden of concern for the life and well-being of patients, family, and friends, which is rather emotional. Sometimes they even have to treat those with whom they are personally acquainted, and the injuries of these people can be serious.

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When this happens, it is not easy to remain impartial. In this connection, it seems appropriate to note that the concept of emotional intelligence that was also expressed in the theory by Nightingale is relevant to my nursing practice as I believe that nurses should have dedication to the ideals of nursing care to cope with these problems. Without nurses, it would, perhaps, be almost impossible to provide care for the wounded and sick, and few of them would survive. For instance, surgical operations can be performed only if there are nurses who can assist during surgery and also provide post-operative care.

Most importantly, nurses not only treat and encourage patients but also often support their relatives, informing them about a patient’s health condition and advising on how to take care of him or her. Magpantay-Monroe (2015) argues that “emotionally intelligent nurse leaders will be instrumental as change catalyst in a constantly changing health care environment” (p. 109). Thus, it is possible to assume that nurses provide human warmth, which is always necessary for recovery. The relevance of Nightingale’s theory refers to its application to nowadays nursing context and my practice, in particular. It shows that to effectively perform their work, nurses need to be compassionate, responsive, and emotionally intelligent. Being a nurse means being a very responsible person and sincerely strive to help people.

Significance to Healthcare and Patients

The focal contribution of Nightingale into healthcare is the increased role of nursing care. The modern nursing metaparadigm is closely connected to the theory of Nightingale, as stated by Selanders and Crane (2012), “she was a singular force in advocating for as opposed to with individuals, groups, and the nursing profession” (p. 3). All her lifetime and professional work represent the concept of advocacy.

However, it is of great importance to stress the fact that this theorist strived to ensure both nurses’ and patients’ rights. Considering the former ones, the two core issues were proposed and implemented in her school. The training of nurses was to be carried out in hospitals specially created for this purpose, and nurses were to be ensured with such conditions that ensured their proper moral behavior and discipline (Mcdonald, 2013). For those time, these two principles were quite radical. The fact that they are taken for granted today attests to the great contribution of Nightingale to training of nurses, which contributed to the overall enhancement in the quality of health care.

Speaking of the relevance of the theory to patients, one should note that Nightingale defines care for a patient as bringing in the optimal state with the help of fresh air or sunlight, heat, silence, hygiene, proper nutrition, mood changes, safety, and so on (FrelloI & CarraroII, 2013). In other words, she provided revolutionary ideas to health understanding. In effect, patients received the premises of modern adequate and timely health care delivery.

Application to Research and Practice

Nightingale raised the prestige of the work of a nurse as her theoretical works were appreciated rather highly and considered an outstanding educational tool. Most importantly, her ideas remain up-to-date, for instance, the suggestion that there is a need to monitor healthy people so that they do not become sick sounds relevant to nowadays world (Mcdonald, 2013). This theorist was the first one, who showed the influence of environmental factors on human health, thus laying the foundations of modern preventative measures. In the conceptual philosophy of Nightingale, the emphasis was made on “the environment of care, light, noise, smell, and warmth” (Peate, Wild, & Nair, 2014, p. 9).

For many years, her works remained the basic textbook for nurses. Today they serve as a self-portrait of Florence Nightingale, allowing nurses and wider populations to understand and respect her attentive and penetrating gaze, truly English humor, and care for people.

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As for the practical perspective, one may note that Nightingale created a functional system of care by increasing the number of chambers to eliminate the crowding of the wounded and organizing kitchens and laundries for them. She believed that the work of the nurses is not only to save patients physically but also to ensure their spiritual salvation (FrelloI & CarraroII, 2013). In effect, she proposed care of their leisure, organization of reading rooms, and assistance to establish appropriate relationships with family. Utilizing modern terminology, it is possible to state that Nightingale provided the foundations of nursing management.


Florence Nightingale is known as the founder of the profession of nurses and the initiator of the reform of hospitals. She saw her mission in serving humanity and delivering health care to sick people and those who were healthy in dissimilar manner. The key strength of her theory is the reform of the medical care system in the British army and the transformation of the nursing service into a serious and respected profession through the development of special training programs and the presentation of high professional requirements for the activities provided by nurses. The theory by Nightingale does not consider the extremely needy patients and the peculiarities of care for them that can be regarded as the limitation.


FrelloI, A. T., & CarraroII, T. E. (2013). Florence nightingale’s contributions: an integrative review of the literature. Escola Anna Nery, 17(3), 573-579.

Karimi, H., & Alavi, N. M. (2015). Florence Nightingale: The mother of nursing. Nursing and Midwifery Studies, 4(2), 1-3.

Magpantay-Monroe, E. (2015). Exploring the emotional intelligence of Florence Nightingale. Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing, 2(2), 107-111.

Mcdonald, L. (2013). Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole on nursing and health care. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 70(6), 1436-1444.

Peate, I., Wild, K., & Nair, M. (2014). Nursing practice: Knowledge and care. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Selanders, L. C., & Crane, P. C. (2012). The voice of Florence Nightingale on advocacy. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 17(1), 1-6.

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