portrait of Florence Nightingale

Remembering Florence, the Matriarch of Modern Nursing

Peter Gibson ANTRUK announcements, Coronavirus COVID-19

statue of Florence Nightingale

Our charity’s media consultant Peter Gibson is remembering Florence Nightingale. He asks whether the most famous daughter of Derby’s contribution to healthcare on the home front has been forgotten and also wonders – what the matriarch of modern nursing would have made of today’s attempts at infection control?

“Today (Tuesday 12 May 2020) at the height of a major modern pandemic, we mark 200 years since the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Schools still teach of her contribution to healthcare during the Crimean War, where her dedication, compassion, professionalism and innovation made her a figure of such historical importance.

She also nursed an interest at home
Whilst Florence, the Lady with the Lamp, is celebrated for her Crimean War contribution, her work at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, in the poor houses of Britain and the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary is too often overlooked.

And as a proud man of Derby – where there are three statues to Florence – I couldn’t let that pass!

Following her stint in the Crimea and her subsequent rise to fame, Florence Nightingale was asked by Dr William Ogle to redesign the Derbyshire Infirmary, where mortality rates were simply appalling.

In correspondence with Dr Ogle, Florence created a blueprint of the hospital to include a new wing named after her, a chapel, operating theatres, kitchen, laundry and mortuary.

The challenge remains the same
Two hundred years later we are still remembering Florence Nightingale and opening-up temporary hospitals in her name.

Though the circumstances seem very different, the battle against infection is still paramount. In Florence’s pre-antibiotic era, you could have died from something as simple as a scratch. Now patients presenting with COVID-19 symptoms are given antibiotics that increasingly don’t work, and some are dying from sepsis as a result of secondary bacterial infections.

Victorian valour
I wonder how Florence would have dealt with that situation but am confident that she would have raised her voice and fought with that typical fortitude of hers to raise awareness of the fact that we need new drugs, now.

I think she would also have nodded appreciatively to our world-first Patient Support Service, where nurses and pharmacists assist those with drug resistant infections, and deficient immune systems.

Florence would have shone a light on antibiotic resistance and, as so many women trailblazers of her generation did, she would have literally rolled up her sleeves and done something about drug-resistant infections and the impact it has on Modern Medicine.

We must do the same.”

If you are worried about an antibiotic resistant infection, visit the Patient Support section of our website, email patient.support@antibioticresearch.org.uk or telephone 07367 784114.