What Would Florence Think?
Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
Electronic charting, massive shortages, overworked, overtime, overstressed, insurance red tape, politics, on the floor and on Capitol Hill are more than topics covered on this nursing blog and many others like it. This is the modern day reality of a career in nursing. Travel nurses can take solace in the fact that at least they can experience life in exciting destinations around the country, managing the job description of modern day RN in shorter doses. The fact is, however, that nursing has the distinction of being a rapidly changing field that remains rooted in the values that must never change in nursing. In other words – Florence Nightingale, meet Jane Jetson.
Looking around today’s hospital “wards”, it is sometimes difficult to see the patients, the human beings needing care, behind all the beeping, flashing machines, closed doors versus open ward settings, steady parade of other collaborating caregivers, specific legal demands of documentation and other necessary distractions that separate nurse from patient. Nursing pioneer and “lady with the lamp” Florence Nightingale managed to sort through the chaotic, deadly conditions of a war hospital, spot the biggest problems and provide effective solutions. Admittedly, when there aren’t enough nurses to go around and nursing hands are often tied by various shades of red tape, it can be difficult to stay focused on the people in the beds versus the data on the cart.
Nightingale inspired many young women to enter the practice of nursing, through her inspired example as a caregiver, critical thinker and statistician specializing in identifying the data that is resulting in illness and death, and coming up with solutions. Isn’t this what remains at the heart of nursing, even with the beeping and flashing? This is often difficult to remember, especially during those moments of you-know-what storms (says one who has been there). It’s like trying to sit down and read a good book in the middle of a tornado.
Remember that to the patients, nurses are more than a frazzled marathon runner in scrubs, sometimes fighting just to survive the shift. The journalist from ‘The Times’ who coined the “lady with the lamp” phrase, made this observation:
“She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary round.”
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.