Florence Nightingale

Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 1, Key stage 2

Time period: Empire and Industry 1750-1850, Victorians 1850-1901

Curriculum topics: Significant individuals

Suggested inquiry questions: What do these documents reveal about the work of Florence Nightingale? Why is she important in the history of the nursing profession? Why do we remember her?

Potential activities: Students design their own advice leaflet for improving conditions for a military hospital based on the work of Florence Nightingale.

Why do we remember her?

 

On the 4 November 1854, Florence Nightingale arrived in Turkey with a group of 38 nurses from England. Britain was at war with Russia in a conflict called the Crimean War (1854-1856). The army base hospital at Scutari in Constantinople was unclean, poorly supplied with bandages and soap and the patients did not have proper food or medicine.

Florence Nightingale found that wounded and dying men were sleeping in overcrowded, dirty rooms often without blankets. These conditions meant that they often caught other diseases like typhus, cholera and dysentery. Often more men died from these diseases than from their injuries.

When she arrived at the hospital, army doctors there did not want the nurses helping. Florence Nightingale realised that if the doctors were going to let her nurses to work then they had to do a very good job.

Use the sources in this lesson to explore why Florence Nightingale is considered a significant figure and the founder of modern nursing.


Tasks

 

Look at Source 1

‘Florence Nightingale assessing a ward at the military hospital in Scutari’. Coloured lithograph, c. 1856, by E. Walker after W. Simpson. © Wellcome Library, London.

This is a picture of one of the wards at Scutari Hospital.

  • Can you find Florence Nightingale in the picture?
  • What is she doing?
  • How are patients being looked after by other people in this picture?
  • Why do you think that the windows are open in this room?
  • Do you think this would this have been a comfortable place to stay? Give your reasons.
  • This is a coloured printed drawing. What are the advantages and disadvantages for using this to find out about the work of Florence Nightingale?
  • What are the differences between this hospital ward and one today?

 

Look at Source 2

An extract from the ‘Report upon the state of the hospitals of the British Army in the Crimea and Scutari’ 1855, Catalogue ref: WO 33/1

This report describes the work of Florence Nightingale and her nurses in the hospital at Scutari.

  • What jobs did the nurses do at Scutari hospital?
  • What sort of person was needed to do this work?
  • What things have you seen nurses do when you have visited a hospital or the doctor?
  • What do you think are the main differences between nurses in Florence Nightingale’s time and today?
  • Why do you think this report was written?

 

Look at Source 3

This is a map of Europe to show the location of the hospital and main area of fighting.

  • Can you find Scutari hospital and Britain on the map?
  • How do you think Florence Nightingale and her nurses travelled from Britain to Scutari?
  • How do you think injured soldiers would have reached the hospital at Scutari?
  • Do you think this would have been an easy journey?
  • Why do you think the soldiers’ hospital was so far away from the fighting area shown in green?

 

Look at Source 4

Extract from a booklet for new nurses going to the Crimea called ‘Rules and Regulations for the Nurses Attached to the Military Hospitals in the East’. This listed the uniform to be provided by the government, other clothes to bring, and the duties of a nurse. Catalogue ref: WO 43/963

  • Why do you think these nurses needed so many different clothes?
  • How easy do you think it would have been to move around and work wearing these clothes?
  • Why do you think that the nurses were not given all their clothes at once?
  • How were they expected store their clothes?
  • Name any FOUR things nurses were expected to supply themselves (not including extra clothing)?
  • What kind of uniforms do nurses wear today?
  • Why are these uniforms more comfortable and easier to wear?

 

Look at Source 5

Photograph of Florence Nightingale’s original Crimean war carriage, 1905 Catalogue ref: Copy 1/489 (f130)

During the Crimean War, the London Illustrated News published a picture of Florence Nightingale in a curtained horse drawn carriage which she used when inspecting military hospitals in the Crimea. It was said to be nicknamed ‘Florrie’s Lorry’. Models of the carriage were made and bought by her many admirers at home. The original carriage was returned to Britain and given to the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St Thomas’s Hospital. It now is on display at the home of Florence’s sister, Claydon House.

  • Why do you think Florence inspected the hospitals in the Crimea?
  • Why do you think she continued do this as part of her work?
  • What would it have been like to travel in this carriage?

 

Look at Source 6a

Front cover of a file about a statue for Florence Nightingale, Catalogue ref: WORK 20/67

This file is from the government Ministry of Works which has information about the planning, building and up keep of royal buildings and parks, public buildings and deals with the protection and care of ancient monuments and statues.

  • Can you spot the code ‘WORK’ on this document?
  • What does the code tell you about what this file might be about?
  • Now read the source. What is it about?
  • In what part of London was the statue of Florence Nightingale situated?
  • What two other statues were to be placed nearby?
  • Can you explain or find out how these three statues were connected?
  • When could this document to be seen by the public for the first time?
  • What was the old name for The National Archives?

Look at Source 6b

Photograph of Waterloo Place, London, viewed from the East showing the Crimean War memorial, and statues of Florence Nightingale and Sidney Herbert of Lea © Wikimedia Commons

  • Can you find the statues of Florence Nightingale; Lord Sidney Herbert? The Crimea Memorial?
  • Who was Sidney Herbert (1810-61)?

 

Look at Source 7

Photograph of the statue of Mary Seacole, Jamaican born nurse unveiled at St Thomas’s Hospital, 2016 © Wikimedia Commons

When the Crimean War broke out Mary Seacole was determined to help. She was rejected by British authorities and Florence Nightingale in 1854 to nurse and so paid for her own passage to the Crimea. She worked on the battle front giving out medicine and food and set up the “British Hotel” with Thomas Day behind the frontline near Balaklava where they cared for the wounded.

  • Can you describe this memorial?
  • How has the artist shown Mary Seacole? [Clue: her position, her expression]
  • Why do you think it has taken a long time to create a statue in her memory?
  • Find out more about role of Mary Seacole in the Crimea.

Background

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was a British nurse, social reformer and statistician. She was the founder of modern nursing. She came from a wealthy background was born in Italy and named after the city of her birth.

As she grew up, she decided that she wanted to help the sick and injured, and wanted to become a nurse. When Florence told her parents they were not happy as in their view, this was not a respectable profession.

Eventually, her father gave his permission for her to go to Germany to train in 1844 in a hospital in Kaiserwerth, Germany. When she returned she became the superintendent of a hospital for gentlewomen in Harley Street, London.

When war broke out in the Crimea in 1854, the government expected it to last several months, it actually lasted 2 years. They were not ready for how many soldiers would be injured, and this was one of the reasons why the hospitals were in such a bad state. A reporter for the Times newspaper sent back several reports about the hospitals, and people in Britain started demanding something was done about them. This was when the Minister for War, Sidney Herbert, stepped in and asked Florence Nightingale to arrange and take charge of nurses to send to the war.

To ensure that the wounded were kept clean and fed well, Florence Nightingale set up laundries to wash linen and clothing and kitchens to cook food. This greatly improved the medical and sanitary arrangements at Scutari reduced the death rate. The work of Florence Nightingale and her nurses set the standards for modern day nursing.

Florence Nightingale has frequently been described as “the lady with the lamp” and this quote relates to an article published about her in The Times newspaper 8th February 1855, which reads:

“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 these miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.”
It took Florence and her nurses 13 days to reach Scutari, they travelled by ship to Boulogne, then overland to Marseilles where they had a break in the journey. From Marseilles, they took the mail steamer “Vectis” to Scutari.

Other women who nursed during the Crimean war are Mary Seacole and Elizabeth (Betsy) Davis. Both had approached Nightingale to work in her hospital at Scutari, but Seacole was turned down, and Davis was one of a party who were sent to Scutari but was not wanted by Nightingale.

Florence returned after the war as a national heroine. She had been shocked by the conditions in the hospital and began to campaign to improve the quality of nursing in military hospitals. In October 1856 she met with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and in 1857 she gave evidence to a Sanitary Commission. This helped with the setting up of the Army Medical College.

In 1859, Florence published a book called “Notes on Nursing” which is still in print today. She also founded the Nightingale School & Home for Nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital in London in 1860. She had important influence on campaigns to improve healthcare in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Until her death, Nightingale encouraged the development in nursing in Britain and abroad. The main reason we remember her is that she did a lot of work educating people about the importance of keeping hospitals clean and free from infection, and this work is carried on today in modern hospitals.

However, Florence Nightingale should also be remembered for her skills as a statistician and because of this, she became the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society in 1858. She was able explain in diagram form that most of the deaths recorded in army hospitals came from disease, rather than from battle wounds and that disease could be controlled by good nutrition, ventilation, and shelter. Her diagram is now referred to as the “Rose Diagram.” It was a real breakthrough for those working with statistics and of course revealed in a very clear way, the absolute importance of good sanitation for the army and society.

Florence Nightingale became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Merit.


Teachers' notes

This lesson is intended for use in Key Stage 1 & 2 as part of an enquiry into Florence Nightingale. It is suggested that the more complex text sources are read by pupils and their teacher/helper together. You could also ask pupils to underline key words/phrases in the transcripts to help make sense of these sources. A simplified transcript is also supplied for Source 2 to be used as necessary. Pupils can work in pairs on the visual sources.

Aims of this lesson

  • To introduce pupils to the idea of using original sources to find out about the past
  • To consider what different sources we can use to find out about the past
  • What sort of questions should be asked of sources?
  • To introduce the concept of significance. Why do we remember certain figures?
  • Understand that significance is attributed to individuals at the time and on the way we live our lives today
  • Are statues important for commemoration?

What other original sources on Florence Nightingale can pupils explore?

An excellent source for more original documents to discuss with your pupils relating to Florence Nightingale are two National Archives blogs listed in the external links. Here you will find her birth certificate and ‘passport’ for the Crimea, an original photograph of Florence Nightingale at Scutari, more documents about her work and the last ever photograph of Florence Nightingale in old age, and another statue of Florence Nightingale in Derby, where she spent much of her childhood.

  • Can pupils discover if their textbooks/topic books support what they have learnt from the original sources used in this lesson?
  • Do these texts tell them anything new or different about Florence Nightingale?
  • Take your investigation wider and compare the role of Florence Nightingale to Mary Seacole, her contemporary.

Connections to curriculum

National Curriculum Key stage 1
The lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements

Extension activities

Mary Seacole

Pupils with support from their teacher, create a timeline for the life of Mary Seacole.

  • Compare some history textbooks from 1970s to those of today and see how they now tell the story of nursing in the Crimean War.
  • Discuss why was Mary Seacole’s role in the Crimean War has been overlooked in earlier history books
  • Why was a memorial built for Mary Seacole in 2016 at St. Thomas’s Hospital?

Edith Cavell

Compare the life and work of Florence Nightingale to someone from a different time, Edith Cavell, famous nurse during the First World War.

Florence Nightingale role play [Working in a groups of 3]

It is late September 1854. Florence Nightingale and Sidney Herbert, the Secretary of War are interviewing a woman who wants to go to the Crimea as a nurse.

  • What questions do you want to ask?
  • Use Source 2 to help you write your questions to decide what would make a good nurse. Write 6-8 questions.
  • Now get into a group of three. One person should play the part of the woman who wants to go to the Crimea as a nurse. The other two play Florence and Sidney and ask the questions you have decided on. At the end you must decide, the person gets the job as a nurse in the Crimea.

Sources

Illustration – COPY 1/11
Source 1 – ‘One of the wards of the hospital at Scutari’, an illustration published 21 April 1856 by Paul & Dominic Colnaghi & Co – Wellcome Library, London
Source 2 – Extract from the ‘Report upon the state of the hospitals of the British Army in the Crimea and Scutari’ Catalogue ref: WO 33/1
Source 3 – © Maps in Minutes, 1999
Source 4 – Extract from Rules and Regulations for the Nurses Attached to the Military Hospitals in the East. Catalogue ref: WO 43/963
Source 5 – Photograph of Florence Nightingale’s original Crimean war carriage, 1905 Catalogue ref: Copy 1/489 (f130)
Source 6a – Front cover of a file about a statue for Florence Nightingale, Catalogue ref: WORK 20/67
Source 6b – Photograph of Waterloo Place, London, viewed from the East showing the Crimean War memorial, and Statues of Florence Nightingale and Sidney Herbert of Lea © Wikimedia Commons
Source 7 – Photograph of the statue of Mary Seacole, Jamaican born nurse unveiled at St Thomas’s Hospital, 2016 © Wikimedia Commons

 

 


External links

https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/florence-nightingale-saving-lives-with-statistics/zjksmfr
More on Florence Nightingale and video to explain her famous “Rose Diagram” .

https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/school-radio/audio-stories-the-lady-with-the-lamp/zmcfhbk
An audio story of the life of Florence Nightingale

https://www.florence-nightingale.co.uk/resources/
More resources from the Florence Nightingale museum

Two National Archives blogs showcasing yet more original sources on the life of Florence Nightingale:
https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/life-of-florence-nightingale-part-one/

https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/lady-in-the-archives-the-life-of-florence-nightingale-part-two/

More on the life and achievements of Mary Seacole
https://www.maryseacoletrust.org.uk/learn-about-mary/

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Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 1, Key stage 2

Time period: Empire and Industry 1750-1850, Victorians 1850-1901

Curriculum topics: Significant individuals

Suggested inquiry questions: What do these documents reveal about the work of Florence Nightingale? Why is she important in the history of the nursing profession? Why do we remember her?

Potential activities: Students design their own advice leaflet for improving conditions for a military hospital based on the work of Florence Nightingale.

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