National Nurses Week

Welcome back.    It’s a profession that is overlooked by most of us until we need their services and that’s when we learn just how important these people are. This week I am bringing you their story.

First let me take you back in time again, back to May 12, 1820 in Florence, Italy where a girl child was born. Her parents were British citizens of wealth and prominence and they named their new baby Florence after the town where she was born. Shortly after her birth they moved back to England where she was raised and educated by her father who had inherited a large estate along with the official title and arms of Nightingale. Both her parents encouraged her studies and in 1938 her father took the family on a tour of Europe where Florence was introduced to the idea that men and women could be equals.

At the time the role of most women was as wives and mothers but this role was not in keeping with Florence’s independent character. Florence decided to dedicate herself to serving mankind and began educating herself in the art and science of the    nursing discipline. Despite the disapproval of her family, Florence began traveling from country to country studying as much as she could about the nursing practices in each area and often teaching others what she had learned. Then in 1950 while sailing up the Nile River near Cairo, Egypt Florence wrote in her dairy that she had been called to God and I quote “God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him alone without reputation.” This experience changed her life.

The Crimean War would as well! In 1854 there were no nurses in the battlefield caring for the wounded. Most wounded soldiers were just left to die until Florence trained a group of 35 nurses who were deployed to the front lines with her. Through an emphasis on sanitation Florence and her troop not only improved the death rate from the wounds themselves but also lowered death rates from diseases such as typhus, cholera and dysentery which were common.  The Dictionary of National Biography states that the death rate fell from 42% to 2% owing to the improvements that Florence introduced.

In 1860 Florence established the first school for nurses at St. Thomas Hospital in London where hundreds of nurses were trained. Now known as the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery the school continues to educate medical professionals today.

In 1870 Florence schooled a woman named Linda Richards who she described as “America’s first trained nurse.” Richards went on to become a pioneer in nursing in both the United States and Japan but that’s another inspiring story I just don’t have space for right now.

Florence Nightingale died peacefully in her sleep at her apartment in London in 1910 at the age of 90. A constant writer, she left her notes behind, hundreds of them pertaining to illnesses and their cures. She also left notes about mathematics. I discovered Florence had a gift in this field and had even developed a form of the pie chart known as the Nightingale Rose Diagram which is still in use today.

In my lifetime I have been so lucky to have been able to travel across the country. To the east in Maine where “Beware of Moose” signs are on every road. Through historical towns along old Route 1 to the city where nuclear subs are built. I’ve swum on the beaches of Connecticut and ridden the subways in New York City and Washington, D.C. I’ve driven to Florida stopping at historical sites in every state along the way.

One summer I lived in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco along with hundreds of flower children. I was back in California when Whitey Bulger was arrested at his apartment there and I visited the home of one of my heroes, Will Rogers, in the Santa Monica mountains.

From the southwest where the borders of Tucson, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico come together I’ve walked and driven every mile of the highway back to New York. To the north I’ve experienced the solitude and wildlife in the mountains of Montana.

Yes, friends I’ve been lucky but this story about nurses I’m able to engage you in is the luckiest thing yet. Starting on May 6th which is the beginning of National Nurses Week I am fortunate to be able to offer several hundred copies of my best-selling book Footprints in the Dew free of charge to nurses around the country. Stay tuned for that story next week and in the meantime be sure to thank a nurse for all they do.

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………….

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