Nursing leaders are crucial to any nursing organization. They motivate, empower, influence, and communicate the organization’s vision to create change within the organization. Respectable nursing depends on noble nursing leaders. This paper will highlight Florence Nightingale nursing leadership and describe her leadership characteristics. It will further depict the democratic style Florence Nightingale utilized throughout her career. Florence Nightingale was not only a nurse, she was a researcher, educator, and theorist. Her contributions to nursing and society are numerous.
Florence Nightingale has been referred to as the “mother of modern nursing” (Johnson & Webber, 2005). Through her work and example, nursing became a respectable profession for women. She collected data through observation and research and applied that knowledge to social reform on the issues of public and military health and sanitation at home and abroad, rural hygiene, hospital planning, organization, and administration, rights of women and the poor, the definition of nursing, and the need for trained nurses and midwives to care for people in workhouses, hospitals, schools, penitentiaries, the military, and at home (Wellman, 1999).
Due to the nature of her work and her commitment to improved patient outcomes by developing best practices based on observation and research, she should be considered the first public health nurse and champion of Evidence Based Practice.
She is responsible for initiating the professional education of woman in nursing outside of the sisterhood and promoting their employment in hospitals and workhouses throughout England and abroad Florence Nightingale was a theorist. She developed her Environmental Model in 1859 and titled it Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not based on her observations and experiences while treating the soldiers during the war (Johnson & Webber, 2005).
Nightingale wrote: In watching disease, both in private houses and in public hospitals, the thing which strikes the experienced observer most forcibly is this, that the symptoms or the sufferings generally considered to be inevitable and incident to the disease are very often not symptoms of the disease at all, but of something quite different- of the want of fresh air, or of light, or of warmth, or of quiet, or of cleanliness, or of punctuality and care in the administration of diet, of each or of all of these (Nightingale, 1860, p. 2). Florence wrote these notes on practice, not intending them to be a manual on nursing, but ideas or women who take care of others because she felt that at some point, nearly every woman nursed somebody in her charge and it was up to them to manipulate the environment to help nature take its course (Nightingale, 1860). Her model includes 13 constructs with recommendations on implementing them. They are: ventilation and warming, health of houses, petty management, noise, variety, taking food, what food, bed and bedding, light, cleanliness of rooms and walls, personal cleanliness, chattering hopes and advises, and observation of the sick (Nightingale, 1860).
Although Nightingale did not intend for her writings to become a teaching manual for nurses, her ideas were clearly applicable to teaching nurses how to care for the patient environment and was eventually used in her school to do just that (Johnson & Weber, 2005). Some of her hints on nursing are still applicable to practice today. They represent a holistic view of nursing by addressing the physical, mental, and social aspects of the patient environment.
For instance, cleanliness of air, water, home, linen, and person are still important and helpful in preventing disease and promoting health. Also, adequate nutrition and sunlight are necessary for proper bodily function. Excessive noise and lack of variety can be harmful to mental health and must be remedied. Lastly, as nurses we still observe the sick, keep track of their vital signs, likes and dislikes, and monitor changes in their condition. All of this we record in the patient’s chart much like Nightingale did when she recorded her observations 150 years ago.
Although Nightingale’s Environmental Model does not meet the guidelines of modern theory and has not spawned the same quantity of research as contemporary models, it can be said that her ideas have influenced nursing theorists and their respective models. Like all nurse theorists, Nightingale used her personal, spiritual, and educational experiences to guide her ideas (Johnson & Weber, 2005). The Living Tree of Nursing Theories was developed by nurses to illustrate the influence of Florence Nightingale on later nurse theorists.
It proposes that person, environment, health, and nursing are the roots of the tree and Nightingale is the trunk supporting the branches, which are the modern theorists (Tourville & Ingalls, 2003). In essence, without Florence Nightingale’s work and ideas, nursing theory would not be the same as it is today. She created the fundamentals on which nursing theory is built. In fact, when comparing modern theories to the Nightingale Model many similarities can be appreciated.
Henderson was concerned that the early nurse practice acts did not clearly cover what nursing is and therefore promoted an unsafe environment for the public. She helped define what nursing is and what it was not. Her definition reads: The unique function of the nurse is to assist the individual, sick or well, in the performance of those activities contributing to health, or its recovery (or to a peaceful death) that he would perform unaided if he had the necessary strength, will, or knowledge.
And to do this in such a way as to help him gain independence as rapidly as possible (Johnson & Webber, 2005, p. 133). A direct connection can be made to Nightingale’s model if one considers the changes in societal expectations and the growth of the nursing role from doer to helper in the 100 years between when the two theories were written. Henderson promotes helping the patient achieve independence through nursing assistance that Nightingale did not. Her 14 components of nursing are similar to Nightingale’s 13.
They include: breathe normally, eat and drink adequately, eliminate body wastes, move and maintain desirable postures, sleep and rest, select suitable clothing, maintain normal body temperature, keep the body clean and well groomed to protect the integument, avoid dangers in the environment and avoid injuring others, communicate with others, worship according to one’s faith, work in such a way that there is a sense of accomplishment, play or participate in various forms of recreation, and learn, discover, or satisfy the curiosity that leads to normal development and health using available health facilities (Johnson & Webber, 2005).
Faye Abdellah’s theory titled, Patient-Centered Approaches, is just that, patient centered. Her 21 nursing problems are also similar to Nightingales 13 ideas and when advances in science and understanding of how the human body functions are taken into consideration a direct correlation can be established. Lastly, Sister Callista Roy’s Adaptation Model relies on the construct that the role of the nurse is to manipulate the environment to free patients so that they can adapt to other stimuli.
Although this is a deviation from Nightingale’s theory, both nurses believed in the reparative process of providing the optimal environment for healing (Johnson & Webber, 2005). In conclusion, Florence Nightingale was instrumental in influencing nursing and society by opening the door for women to practice as nurses, promoting nurse education, guiding evidence based practice through her research and observations, by being a human rights advocate, and by working tirelessly to improve the health and quality of life for people throughout many nations. Florence Nightingale devoted her life in the pursuit of helping others.