Florence Nightingale

International Nurses Day is celebrated on whose birthday each year?

And the answer: Florence Nightingale.

Photo credit: London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images

International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world each year on the 12th of May. Florence Nightingale is best known as the founder of modern nursing. Her experiences as a nurse during the Crimean War were foundational in her views about sanitation, and in 1860, she established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in London.

Florence Nightingale was a pioneer of public health. Thanks to her, nursing is one of the most globally regulated and respected professions in the field of medicine. Her self-proclaimed calling to become a nurse helped elevate the profession to that which we are accustomed today.

Named for her birth place of Florence, Italy, Nightingale was born to a wealthy family who expected her to become a wife and homemaker. Nightingale had other ideas. At age 24, she defied her parents' expectation to marry a suitable match and instead left England to study at a hospital in Germany. Upon her return to England, she took a job as a nurse in London, and was promoted to the head of nursing after just one year.

Nightingale focused on (and succeeded at) improving sanitary conditions so much that she garnered a reputation as a reformer and advocate for public health. When the British Press publicized the horrific conditions of their wounded soldiers in Turkey, Nightingale received personal summons to help. She and her team of nurses responded to the call, but upon their arrival to Turkey, they were shocked. The situation was so bad that more soldiers were dying from infection than the actual wounds sustained on the battlefield.

Nightingale insisted that there be fresh air and water for all wounded soldiers, ensured that there would be good food to eat, and made sure that all the bandages, sheets and blankets were all adequately laundered each day. By the time she had implemented her techniques, the death rate in military hospitals had dropped by two-thirds. She returned to England with the nickname "The Angel of Crimea."

Nightingale devoted the rest of her life to effecting change in medical care. To learn more about her legacy, check out this article.

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