Florence Nightingale’s Perspective of Nursology

Contributor: Jacqueline Fawcett
October 23, 2018

Author – Florence Nightingale, OM, RRC, DStJ

Year First Published – 1859
Major Concepts
  • Ventilation and warming
  • Health of houses
    • Pure Air
    • Pure Water
    • Efficient Drainage
    • Cleanliness,
    • Light
  • Petty management
    • What to do when with the patient
    • What is to be done when not with the patient
  • Noise.
  •  Variety in Settings within the house
  • Taking food
    • What food is to be taken
  • Bed and bedding
  • Light
  • Cleanliness of rooms and walls
  • Personal cleanliness
  • Chattering hopes and advices
  • Observation of the sick

A conceptual model

Brief Description

Florence Nightingale is regarded as the founder of modern nursology, although interestingly, she equated knowledge of sanitation with what we now call nursology. Consequently, Nightingale’s view of the task of all nursologists (who could be any woman) was “to keep the body free from disease or in such a condition that it could recover from disease . . . [by putting] patients in the best condition for nature to act upon them” (Fawcett, 2013, p. 2629). The practice of nursology, according to Nightingale, includes attention to both well and sick people, with attention to the environmental conditions in which people live. Nightingale believed that programs of study of nursology—teaching and learning both theoretical and practical knowledge–should be separate from hospitals, although training was to occur in hospitals

Fawcett, J. (2013). Appendix N-1: Conceptual models and theories of nursing. In D. Venes (Ed.), Taber’s cyclopedic medical dictionary (22nd ed., pp. 2629-2660). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis.)

Primary Sources

Nightingale, F. (1859). Notes on nursing: What it is, and what it is not. London: Harrison and Sons.

Commemorative edition, Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, 1992]

Commemorative Edition

informative commentaries about how Nightingale influenced their thinking about nursing by Constance B. Schuyler, Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, Dorothy E. Johnson, Madeleine Leininger, Myra Estrin Levine, Margaret A. Newman, Hildegard E. Peplau, Martha E. Rogers, Sister Callista Roy, Margretta Madden Styles, John D. Thompson, and Jean Watson. Barnum (1992) ended her introduction with these words: “What was it that enabled Nightingale to stimulate the development of a profession, change the health and lives of so many, and still draw criticism and praise from a generation of [nursologists] as far removed in time as our own? Enjoy the thrill of rereading Nightingale as well as the joy of learning how much a rereading stimulated the minds of many of our nursing leaders” (p. 1)

See also Skretkowicz, V. (Ed.). (2010). Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing and Notes on Nursing for the Laboring Classes (Commemorative edition with historical commentary). New York, NY: Springer. 

Special features of this book are Dr. Skretkowicz’s own expert commentary and annotations; descriptions of various versions of the two books in the contexts of their social and cultural history, some of Nightingale’s original passages that remained unpublished for more than 100 years, and reactions and commentary from Nightingale’s contemporaries (See available source here).

The first American edition of Nightingale’s Notes on Nursing is available here.  As might be expected, there are many, many publications about Florence Nightingale and her work. For example, a search of CINAHL on October 26, 2018, yielded 1,025 citations.

The Florence Nightingale Digitization Project is a very special undertaking by the History of Nursing Archives of the Boston University Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. Hundreds of Nightingale’s letters have been scanned into a searchable database, which is available here.  The History of Nursing Archives also contains “first editions of [Nighiingale’s] writings, including A Contribution to the Sanitary History of the British Army During the Late War with Russia, which was published anonymously in 1859. Also included is a sixpence edition of Notes on Nursing for the Labouring Classes signed by Nightingale with a letter dated September 29, 1869” (Retrieved from http://archives.bu.edu/collections/nursing.)

About the Author

Florence Nightingale (May 12, 1820- August 13, 1910)

Florence Nightingale circa 1860. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale

“Florence Nightingale . . . was an English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organised care for wounded soldiers.[3] She gave nursing a favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.” (Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Nightingale)

There are a number of notable biographies of Nightingale, each of which provides interesting accounts and interpretations of her life.  See in particular:

Woodham-Smith, C. (1983). Florence Nightingale: 1820-1910. New York: Atheneum (Recommended by Peggy Chinn)