The Voice of Florence Nightingale on Advocacy

Article excerpt

Abstract

Modern nursing is complex, ever changing, and multi focused. Since the time of Florence Nightingale, however, the goal of nursing has remained unchanged, namely to provide a safe and caring environment that promotes patient health and well being. Effective use of an interpersonal tool, such as advocacy, enhances the care-giving environment. Nightingale used advocacy early and often in the development of modern nursing. By reading her many letters and publications that have survived, it is possible to identify her professional goals and techniques. Specifically, Nightingale valued egalitarian human rights and developed leadership principles and practices that provide useful advocacy techniques for nurses practicing in the 21st century. In this article we will review the accomplishments of Florence Nightingale, discuss advocacy in nursing and show how Nightingale used advocacy through promoting both egalitarian human rights and leadership activities. We will conclude by exploring how Nightingale's advocacy is as relevant for the 21st century as it was for the 19th century.

Citation: Selanders, L., Crane, P., (January 31, 2012) "The Voice of Florence Nightingale on Advocacy" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 17, No. 1, Manuscript 1.

DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol17No01Man01

Key words: Florence Nightingale, advocacy, nursing, profession

Nursing has never been simple. Early care stressors included exposure to the elements and a lack of knowledge as to how to treat serious injuries or diseases. Through ensuing generations, environmental conditions have improved and science has provided effective treatment pathways. However, other complexities, including societal acceptance of the profession, gender discrimination, and educational and regulatory disarray, have created a multifaceted and complicated backdrop against which nurses continue to provide the most basic of human interventions: caring.

In the nineteenth century, one woman, because of her religious convictions and profound vision of the potential of nursing, altered the status of nursing from that of domestic service to that of a profession (Nightingale, 1893/1949; Nightingale, 1895a). This woman, Florence Nightingale, utilized intellect, personal motivation, available opportunities, and the strength of her own persona to create a permanent professional transformation (Bostridge, 2008; Cook, 1913; Dossey, 2000). One of the most effective tools that she employed was advocacy, both for individuals and for the nursing collective. The purpose of this article is to explore Nightingale's use of advocacy as a tool and to identify the continuing value of her conceptual and practical

advocacy strategies for the nursing profession in the 21st century. In this article we will review the accomplishments of Florence Nightingale, discuss advocacy in nursing, and show how Nightingale advocated both through promoting egalitarian human rights and through her leadership activities. We will conclude by exploring how Nightingale's advocacy is as relevant for the 21st century as it was for the 19th century.

Who Was Florence Nightingale?

On May 12, 1820, Florence Nightingale was born as the second of two daughters to English parents. As a young woman, she displayed exceptional intellect, learning multiple languages and being particularly capable in mathematics (Bostridge, 2008). Nightingale seemed to be most comfortable in the solitary activities of reading, writing in her journals, and attempting to discern purpose in her life. She deeply believed that she had a Godgiven purpose to better mankind, but the route to achieving this goal was unclear (Calabria & Macrae, 1994; Cook, 1913).

As a young woman, Nightingale wished for meaningful work and began to imagine herself caring for others, defying her parents' desire that she marry into a socially prominent family. On at least three occasions she declined proposals, indicating that she could not pursue her own goals as a married woman (Gill, 2004; Nightingale, 1859a/1978). …