Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Miss Nightingale!

The name "Florence Nightingale" often makes a post-World War II "nurse-as-doctor's-helper" image spring to mind. But Nightingale, born in 1820, was a well-connected, highly political person who founded modern nursing using epidemiological principles, marrying her cutting-edge knowledge of science with the practical experience she amassed providing hands-on care.

To celebrate Flo's birthday--and send a final salute to nurses during Nurses Week 2009--here are few "then and now" reflections:

In 1859, ten years after beginning her career as a nurse Florence Nightingale publishes Notes on Nursing: What it is and What it is Not.

In 2009, President Barack Obama appoints Mary Wakefield, RN, PhD to serve as the Chief of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency overseeing programs that bring health care to uninsured people, particularly in underserved areas of the country. Wakefield's agency will administer $2.5 billion to invest in health care infrastructure and train health care professionals.

Bo says, "Way to go!"

In 1860, Nightingale writes this about noise:
"Unnecessary noise, or noise that creates an expectation in the mind, is that which hurts a patient."
Today, YouTube (and Ameriquest) document the consequences of unnecessary noise in healthcare settings:

Bo says, "ROFLMAO." (Sorry, Flo.)

In 1860, Nightingale's Notes on Nursing says this about food,

"Every careful observer of the sick will agree in this that thousands of patients are annually starved in the midst of plenty."

A century and a half later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports 38 million people in our nation – 13.9 million of them children – live in households that suffer from hunger or live on the edge of hunger. The Food Research and Action Center provides education to a citzenry with increasing BMIs: Hunger and Obesity? Making the Connections.

Bo says, "Any program that removes recess from the school day to add more time for classroom instruction should be called, No Child Left Without a Big Behind."

In 1860, Nightingale challenges the conventional wisdom of her time saying,

"'What can't be cured, must be endured' is the very worst and most dangerous maxim for a nurse which was ever made."

In 2004, the association between patient outcomes, nursing care, and the conditions under which nursing is practiced is re-visited in a seminal IOM report, Keeping Patients Safe: Transforming the Work Environment of Nurses. "Coulda, shoulda, woulda" models of practice may join other cast-offs (like caps and bad shoes) as evidenced-based care, researched best practices, and patient-centric designs take hold.

Bo says, "Happy Birthday, Miss Nightingale!"

(If you don't want to wait until next year for more of Flo & Bo's wisdom, subscribe to this blog and follow along on Twitter!)

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