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Contemporary Nursing: Nightingale's LegacyResearch Paper

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Nightingale's History Of Modern Nursing

Florence Nightingale is most certainly a historical figure with a transformative role in health care. There are a number of students, practitioners, and historians specializing in nursing who have gone so far as to determine that she was the first contemporary nurse (Selanders, 2010, p. 70) and that this subset of the health industry is attributable to her efforts. Whether or not Nightingale was truly the first nurse, she has certainly produced a substantial impact on the way that the nursing profession was practiced -- both during her timeframe in the 19th century and as it is practiced today. An analysis of her contributions reveals a number of different lessons for those involved in nursing and the health care industry in general.

One of the chief ways in which Nightingale was able to modernize the profession of nursing is by emphasizing what has largely been known as an environmental approach to nursing. During Nightingale's time, most nursing in the westernized world was focused on the egocentric paradigm of nursing, in which caretakers would only concern themselves with the environment as it directly related to their patients. What Nightingale helped to foster was a much more holistic approach to nursing in which she sought a harmonization of the individual with his or her surrounding environment in general. The nurse sought to establish a degree of temperance and stasis between the individual and his or her surrounding environment. Specifically, Nightingale was credited with developing an environmental approach which was "a systems model that focuses on the "client" in the center, surrounded by aspects of the environment in all in balance" (Zborowsky, 2014, p. 19). As such, there were basics aspects of sanitization which Nightingale strove to reinforce for her patients and which have subsequently been attributed to her.

More importantly, perhaps, was the way in which Nightingale's environmental methodology (Winklestein, 2009) ties into and became part of an ecocentric approach to nursing. It would perhaps be unfair to attribute the entire ecocentric perspective to the efforts of Nightingale. What is unequivocal, however, is the fact that she was able to revitalize this perspective of nursing and give it a relevance that -- during the time in which she practiced this profession -- arguably helped to transcend that of the other two perspectives: the homocentric and egocentric perspective. Quite frankly, prior to Nightingale's advent the egocentric perspective was highly prevalent throughout the various forms of nursing in Occidental culture. Nonetheless, by focusing on a sort of uniform synthesis and alignment of the individual with his or her overlying surroundings, Nightingale was able to champion aspects of the ecocentric approach that were previously implied or altogether forsaken for the other perspectives. In this respect, Nightingale was partly responsible for broadening and popularizing the ecocentric perspective of nursing by incorporating various elements of it with her environmental approach. It is also worth noting that the focus on nursing that reflected the environment and the ecocentric approach (the latter of which emphasizes a patient's accordance not only with his or her immediate surroundings, but also with external ones such as the weather, the country, the planet, and likely even the cosmos itself) is something that would remain a priority in Westernized nursing until the advances of technology that invaded this profession during the 20th century. Nightingale was even known to utilize animals or pets to help brighten the environments of patients (Halm, 2008).

The theoretical efforts that Nightingale pioneered have substantial ramifications for how nursing is practiced today, as well as for how it has been practiced since the latter part of the 20th century. In many ways, Nightingale's focus on the environment and its effects on the ecocentric perspective of nursing was an early forerunner for the movement towards environmentalism as a whole that gained credence throughout the Western world in the final decades of the 20th century. Nonetheless, the nurse was primarily preoccupied with the environment immediately surrounding patients and the effects it produced upon them. She demonstrated this fact most dramatically while engaged at the Crimean War in Turkey with the British troops who were combating the forces of Scutari, Turkey. The immediate environment surrounding the soldiers who were Nightingale's patients was chilling and filled with all sorts of diseases and squalor that was reportedly responsible for killing more men than the weapons of the enemies did (Gill and Gill, 2005). Nightingale set about rectifying this situation immediately, and took a number of basic measures that actuated the theory for which she is known. She insisted on fresh, clean supplies for her patients, ensured that waste, excrements and blood were readily sanitized and removed from the patient ward, and implemented a practice of only utilizing cloths and supplies for soldiers once before discarding them. The fact of the matter is that without formal knowledge of bacteria and other forms of infectious diseases, Nightingale's practices were able to severely reduce the rate of deaths of those in the infirmary during the war for the British side, which helped to set a precedent for sanitization in Western culture. Therefore, the principle lesson learned from Nightingale's career as a nurse is that the immediate environment surrounding a patient should be conducive to convalescence, and should not exacerbate his or her recovery.

Another critical consequence of Nightingale's experience as a nurse and a theoretician in the field of health care is the precedent she established regarding medical statistics or what is also termed health care data. In this respect, it is not surprising that Nightingale was able to decrease the percentage of dead soldiers during the Crimean War -- she made a point to keep records of virtually everything she did related to her experience there. In fact, Nightingale was somewhat prescient in her ability to perceive the value that health care data could provide to the industry, which the subsequent quotation explains:

"She was skilled in mathematics and far ahead of her time in understanding the importance of health data. She argued…that Parliament should extend the 1860 census to collect data on sickness and disability…The Royal Statistical Society acknowledged her contributions to health data by electing Florence Nightingale to membership…and the American Statistical Association made her an Honorary Member" (Winklestein, 2009 ).

Nightingale's esteem for health data was simply a natural extension of her valuation for environmental concerns. The correlation between the two is clear: the nurse believed that health data could help to validate sanitary and environmental factors related to health care, and that the environment, in turn, would affect health care data. It is significant that the correlation Nightingale saw between the environment and health care data is one which is widely followed today.

Another way in which the case of Florence Nightingale has had a transformative effect on the health care industry directly relates to her prioritization of public health and public health care policy. Today, there are numerous classes and positions of employment within this subset of the health care industry. Nightingale, however, was preoccupied with public health policy because she believed it was one of the most effective ways of implementing her theoretical work and actually changing the way that health care was practiced. After her experience in the Crimean War, she made a point of lobbying British health care representatives for the duration of her life to create more changes based on her environmental perspective of health care (Gill and Gill, 2005). Her efforts, which were not only limited to the government but also to various individuals and organizations related to health care, helped to establish a pattern of advocacy for health reform that still exists today. There are a number of demonstrators and lobbyists in contemporary times that are seeking to effect changes for public health care policy. However, it is difficult to find such advocacy prior to the advent of Nightingale and the work which she did in Britain. In this respect, part of Nightingale's legacy is not only the need for an environmental perspective focused on sanitation and ecocentric concerns within the health care industry, but also a culture of advocacy for public health that has definitely helped to shape this aspect of healthcare.

In summary, Nightingale proved highly influential for contemporary health care in several different ways, both theoretical and in practice. Her emphasis on sanitation helped to popularize her environmental approach to effecting health care -- the most convincing evidence for the efficacy of these contributions is the reduction in medical patient deaths she was able to produce during the waging of the Crimean War (Gill and Gill, 2005). Nightingale was able to relate these methodologies to the ecocentric viewpoint of health care and actually change the way that hospitals operated and valued cleanliness and other factors pertinent to the environment of patients. As such, basic facets of hygiene that are taken for granted in modern times are directly attributable to her influence, which is also evinced in her concern for medical record keeping and public health care advocacy. Nightingale… [END OF PREVIEW]

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