The PioneersThe MilitaryReferences

Florence Nightingale Cont

Sir Sidney Herbert, the Secretary of War, made a decision to try and improve conditions at Scutari Hospital which was near Constantinople. He was a family friend of the Nightingales and knew of Florence’s Nightingales expertise as a nurse and organiser, so he contacted her and requested that she go to the Crimea to help the sick, and wounded of the war.

She accepted without hesitation. The decision to send her was in November 1854. She was given the title "Superintendent of the female nurses". She was funded to enlist a group of 20 nurses. She proceeded to Scutari hospital, which was just outside Constantinople, now a part of Turkey.

 There was opposition to this deployment especially from the Military, as the deployment of women nurses had been tried before. These women however were untrained and were of the lower class they some were not interested in the needs of the injured or sick soldier. 

Most of them drank too much and caused more problems than they solved. Her arrival at Scutari was the day before the battle of Inkerman. The hospital facility at Scutari was overcrowded, and was classed as a 3758 bedded hospital.

It was infested with vermin and was filthy, the mortality rate was high. Deaths were due to cholera, wound sepsis, dysentery and “Crimea fever” How Florence Nightingale and her team dealt with the situation at Scutari is legendary. It was said of her that:

"Her gift was her power to dominate, which lifted her from out the ranks of those who are only 'able' to the highest reached by those who are great".221

(Florence Nightingale's nurses were off duty at 8pm and male orderlies took over for the night. Only Florence Nightingale ventured onto the wards after 8pm. The picture of the lady with the lamp is familiar to most people around the world.) 

Nightingale and her nurses brought down the mortality rate to below four per cent from its original 40 plus per cent. Miss Stanley (who some say was the real heroine of nursing) arrived later with 46 other nurses (at first this reinforcement was objected to by Nightingale).

The lessons learned from the Crimean war went on to influence the military’s medical service, which from then on Incorporated’s a nurse led service on the wards to look after post op and medical patients.