April 11, 2020

The challenges we are facing in healthcare today remind me of another time and how much things have not changed even with modern technology, medicine, and pharmacology. I am reminded of an exceptional lady who accomplished many things in her life from a nursing standpoint, infection control, disease trend analysis, development of tracking and statistical reporting (see Polar Area Diagram), and much more.

In 1854 Florence Nightingale along with 38 female volunteers and 15 Catholic nuns were sent to a hospital to care for solders wounded in the Crimean War. There she trained these women as the first professional nurses. She also found deplorable conditions in the hospital and had virtually no medicine to work with. She is credited with reducing the death rate in the hospital from 42% to 2%. How did she do it? Largely through sanitation, hand washing, and social distancing. Techniques we have turned to in order to defeat COVID-19. She was dubbed the Lady With the Lamp by her patients for her nightly rounds which gave birth to 24- hour nursing care in hospitals.

Beyond patient care, she was also a well-respected statistician who created the Polar Area Diagram used to study cyclical trends over time, such as disease trends like the flu! Why do I think her story is important? Because 166 years after her experiences in the Crimean War, we find ourselves utilizing techniques and practices she developed and championed to defeat a virus that threatens all of us. We have gone back to basics as we have discovered that we do not have all the answers that modern technology and clinical knowledge promise.

The other reason that I write this article is to recognize that National Nurses Day was created in honor of Florence Nightingale and will be celebrated on May 6, 2020. On her 200th birthday (May 12, 2020) many things have changed, however, many things have remained the same. The caring, professionalism, and dedication of our nurses has not changed. So, on May 6, 2020 take the time to thank a nurse for continuing the tradition of service to patients that The Lady With the Lamp founded 166 years ago!