Florence Nightingale, that is, if the lamp is not enough ... better the hammer!


As we have already noted, often the "baker" of the war, shamelessly hidden by the "fig leaf" of "various and possible" ideals, serves for "political" ends. However, flying over the crudity of the aforementioned consideration, it should be noted that, due to the war, figures emerge that, despite not having anything heroic according to the rules of military "kamasutra", have been able to sink an impression that is anything but superficial in history human.

As we know, the Crimean War, at the time called War of the East, was a conflict fought from 4 October 1853 to 1 February 1856 between the Russian Empire, on the one hand, and an alliance made up of the Ottoman Empire, France, England and the Kingdom of Sardinia, on the other.
The dramatic conditions of abandonment of the wounded and the sick English (for the French there were the Sisters of Charity and for the Russians the 300 Sisters of the Exaltation of the Cross by Helen Paulowna) during the war operations, published in the "Times" by the First war reporter, he led the British government to intervene under the rapidly growing pressures of a public opinion that has always been highly heard and powerful.
There was no pre-constituted organization that was up to the task in an area, among other things, very impervious and unhealthy.
In the end theAngel Band: 38 nurses under F. Nightingale.

The Nightingale, English, but born in Italy, had two possible solutions to face the difficult task: the "Latin" and the "Teutonic".

The first, epiphenomenon of "Roman Catholic" welfare anthropology, provided a "human" preparation, perhaps, but certainly not "professional". The nurse, humble and submissive to the doctor, could not have any independent or responsible role.

The second, as an expression of "reformed" anthropology, provided for a training, theoretical - practical process, such as to make the nurse a real "care manager" ante litteram.

Florence made her choice and went to study in Germany at the school Nurse Diaconesse of Kaiserwerth founded in 1836. On the way back she was faced with the difficult problem of choosing her nurses to use in the field. "

Women, prepared to devote themselves to caring for the sick, had two totally opposing concepts on the nurse's duties. The hospitalized, alcoholic, unruffled and turbulent one, considered its task to treat the patient's ill body, bringing it back to health according to the prescriptions of the doctors; the one coming from religious institutes ... not alcoholic or broken, but was more inclined to take care of the soul of the patient than of his body. This thought was not only of members of religious orders, but was shared by a good number of cultured women who dedicated themselves to welfare assistance as "ladies or ladies", not nurses. Florence did not want in her "group" neither one nor the other. His were all nurses! "1

By unanimous consent (except that of military commands that will be strenuously opposing them, also fighting against the evidence) the action of the nurses on the field was decisive. The general conditions improved, mortality from 6 to 42,7% decreased in 2,2 months and everyone was offered psychological support.

"History has always been" a human thing ", interpreted by men and for men. From this it follows that "the truth" is only that of men. So most of the testimonies must be re-read in the light of this reality.

"Florence was never called" the lady with the lamp ", but" lady with the hammer "2, an image cleverly reworked by the Times' war reporter, who thought it a little too vulgar for his readers. Far from silently wandering around the hospital holding her lamp high, Nightingale earned the nickname for forcing the locked door of a deposit when an officer refused to supply her with the medicines she needed to alleviate the suffering of sick people."3
On his return he was celebrated as a heroine, a sentimental literature was inspired by her and her mission to cover the harshness of working reality.
Funds, fame and prestige allowed her to establish a school despite the very strong opposition of the medical class for which: "The nurses are like servants, they need few teachings ..."

He took care, through the application of statistics and appropriate research in the field, to improve civil hospitals. She is responsible for the restructuring of the British military health services: despite the opposition of the Major States, the Military Medical School. As was to be expected, his teachings were slow to be accepted by the military institutions which had also proved their effectiveness: during the Boer War (1899–1902), diseases caused a mortality five times higher than war wounds. It was only during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) that Nightingale's insights into troop hygiene, care and nutrition, finally applied on a large scale, fully demonstrated their effectiveness.

The British government initiated a nursing school reform that provided for practical placements at validated hospitals.

It was requested, also overseas, not only as an expert in health organization, but also as an intelligent councilor in the field of health care.

He died at 90 years after giving the nursing profession an immeasurable contribution, especially by modifying its public image.
Nursing culture has been deeply influenced by his works: health education, training, professionalization, autonomy, independence.

At the base of the theory of nursing, according to Nightingale, there was necessarily the environment: microclimate, hygiene and diet, were the factors on which the nurse (skilled, prepared, vigilant and persevering) had to act in order not to hinder the vis medicatrix naturae stimulating the possible "passivity" of the "patiens" to cooperate towards healing.

"The woman had found a place in the health system, but a subordinate place. The Medici, initially hostile, will end up willingly accepting his obedient and submissive collaboration. "She, however, opposed bacteriology and feminism and the limits of her theory were those of the socio-cultural context of reference summarized in the axiom according to which: "Every woman is a nurse". He adopted the macho and Victorian models of the roles of wife, mother and housewife, transplanting them into nursing reality.

Luisa Carini, Enzo Cantarano, Federico Bizzarri



Angeletti LR, History, philosophy and general ethics of Medicine, Masson, 2004
Cantarano E, Carini L, History of Medicine and Care for Health Professions, Universitalia, Rome, 2013, pag. 159 -161.
Cosmacini G, The Long Art, Laterza, 2006
Fornaciari G, Giuffra V, Manual of medical history, Happy ed. 2011


1 from "Florence Nightingale", Woodham Smith 1954
2 see: Votes for Women, 9 April 1912, page 737
3 from "Female History of the World" Rosalind Miles, Elliot Ed. 2009, Rome
4 Calamandrei C, Nursing care: history, theory, methods, Carocci Editore, 1983.