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Nothing could sway Florence from her mission to nurse. She defied her parents' wishes and continued to visit hospitals in Paris, Rome and London. This forced Florence to return and care for her. But in August , the breakthrough finally came: Florence became superintendent at a women's hospital in Harley Street. After nearly a decade, she had realised her ambition of becoming a nurse.

Florence receiving a wounded soldier at the British hospital in Scutari. The Crimean War broke out in Newspaper reports from the front line told horror stories of the appalling conditions in British army hospitals. He appointed her to take 38 nurses to the military hospital in Scutari, Turkey. It was the first time women had been allowed to officially serve in the army. When she arrived, the Barrack Hospital was filthy — the floor was an inch thick with faeces. She set her nurses to work cleaning the hospital and ensured soldiers were properly fed and clothed.

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The regular troops were, for the first time, being treated with decency and respect. Florence also inspected and reformed front-line hospitals in Crimea in It kept increasing relentlessly, with over four thousand deaths in a single winter. Although she had made the hospital more efficient, it was no less deadly.

In the spring of , the British government sent out a Sanitary Commission to investigate the conditions at Scutari. It discovered the Barrack Hospital was built on a sewer, meaning patients were drinking contaminated water. The hospital, along with other British army hospitals, was flushed out and ventilation improved. Consequently, the death rate began to fall. It would be a brave man that dare insult her…I would not give a penny for his Chance…. When a portrait of Florence carrying a lamp and tending to patients appeared in the press, she quickly gained an army of die-hard Florence fans.

Her work in Scutari improving the living conditions of soldiers in hospitals was hailed by both the press and the public. Her family had to wade through a steady stream of poems posted to Florence — the Victorian equivalent of fan mail — and images of 'the lady of the lamp' were printed on bags, mats and souvenirs. But Florence was wary of her celebrity.

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Although she returned home a heroine, she kept a low profile by travelling under a pseudonym — Miss Smith. It wasn't until after she had processed all she had learned at Scutari, that Florence used her fame as a powerful weapon in her mission to save lives. Haunted by the appalling loss of life, Florence met with one of her biggest fans, Queen Victoria.

With her backing, she persuaded the government to set up a Royal Commission into the health of the army. Leading statistician William Farr and John Sutherland of the Sanitary Commission helped her analyse vast amounts of complex army data. The truth she uncovered was shocking — 16, of the 18, deaths were not due to battle wounds but to preventable diseases, spread by poor sanitation.

Professor Marcus Du Sautoy explains the rose diagram. Florence knew her talent for statistics wouldn't be enough to ensure her report hit home. It was time to prove her mastery of communication as well. Rather than lists or tables, she represented the death toll in a revolutionary way.

It should affect through the eyes what we fail to convey to the brains of the public through their word-proof ears. In she published her most famous books — Notes on Nursing and Notes on Hospitals — and, the next year, a nursing school was founded in her name. Her work over the following decades helped to establish nursing as a respectable career for women, and improved hospitals so they became clean, spacious places for patients to recover.


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But as Florence campaigned, her own health continued to fail. In Crimea, it's thought she had contracted chronic brucellosis, a bacterial infection causing fever, depression and extreme pain.

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Frail and reclusive, she fought on to improve British healthcare by poring over statistical data from her sickbed. Florence was ill but wealthy — she could afford to pay for private healthcare. But she knew most people in Victorian Britain couldn't do the same.

Impoverished people could only care for one another. Florence's Notes on Nursing aimed to educate people about ways to care for sick relatives and neighbours, but she still wanted to help the very poorest in society. She sent trained nurses into workhouses to help treat the needy. This attempt to make medical care readily available to everyone, regardless of their class or income, served as an early precursor to the National Health Service.

Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day. These elements, no doubt, affect considerably the results of treatment, altogether apart from the sanitary state of hospitals. In the next place accurate hospital statistics are much more rare than is generally imagined, and at the best they only give the mor tality which has taken place in the hospitals, and take no cognizance of those cases which are discharged in a hopeless condition, to a much greater extent from some hospitals than from others.

We have known incurable cases discharged from one hospital, to which the deaths ought to have been accounted, and received into another hospital, to die there in a day or two after admission. About the Publisher Forgotten Books publishes hundreds of thousands of rare and classic books. Find more at www. Forgotten Books uses state-of-the-art technology to digitally reconstruct the work, preserving the original format whilst repairing imperfections present in the aged copy.

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