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In the beginning: Florence Nightingale
derision. Hospitals were seen as filthy, dangerous places, and nurses as
One woman, Florence Nightingale was determined to change this perception.
In 1853, when British health care proved inadequate during the Crimean War
war, Nightingale led hospital staff in caring for thousands of wounded and sick
When Nightingale and 38 British nurses arrived in the Crimea, conditions were
much worse than they had anticipated. Infection was rife and stores had either
not arrived or had been
lost at sea
. Nightingale immediately recognised that the
hospitals needed to be properly managed and often worked 20 hour days to
achieve this. She was the first to recognise the connection between a patient’s
mental and physical wellbeing. At night Nightingale would walk the hospital
corridors, caring for her patients. She was given the affectionate nickname, “The
Lady with the Lamp”.
After returning to Britain, Nightingale demanded a Royal Commission into the
Military Hospitals and the health of the army. Money donated by the general
public was used to establish the first organised training school for nurses, the
Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.
In her later life Nightingale researched, campaigned and wrote over 200 reports,
pamphlets and books on nursing, hospital organisation and health reform, which
had a profound effect in Britain and across the world.
Florence Nightingale’s ideas on nursing were ahead of her time and changed
society’s approach to nursing for ever. She was a visionary health reformer,
introducing a holistic approach to nursing and promoting commitment to patient
care. Perhaps Nightingale’s greatest achievement was to take the first step in
making nursing a respectable profession for women.
In 1907 the Hungarian Red Cross Society proposed
the form of a special medal for women who
distinguished themselves in the noble mission of
caring for the sick and wounded.
Over 40 Australian nurses have received the Florence
In 1992, the International Committee of the Red Cross changed the criteria for
awarding the Florence Nightingale Medal so that both male and female nurses
would be eligible. The award is now open to qualified nurses and voluntary
nursing aides who are active members or regular helpers of a national Red Cross
organisation or an affiliated medical or nursing institution.
Research one of the following Australian nurses who have been awarded the
Florence Nightingale Medal: Matron Olive Paschke, Sister Evelyn Conyers, Captain
Vivian Bullwinkel or Barbara Moriarty.
i) Why were they awarded this medal?
ii) How do their actions reflect the work of Florence Nightingale?
For more information
Roll of Honour:
First world war embarkation roll:
Family history https://www.awm.gov.au/research/family/
Florence Nightingale Medal posthumously awarded to
Hospital. Paschke drowned, along with 32 other
Australian nurses, when the Vyner Brooke was sunk by
Japanese bombers in the Banka Strait on 14 February