It is difficult to imagine modern hospital care without the nursing profession. In fact, the very first hospital in Canada was created by Augustine nuns (who, practically speaking, were nurses) in 1639: the Hôtel-Dieu in Québec City, which still functions to this day.
Much like how William Osler is celebrated in medical antiquity for physicians, Florence Nightingale is widely accepted as the founder of modern nursing. Her contributions in the Crimean War earned her the famed nickname “Lady with the Lamp”:
“She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every poor fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her. When all the medical officers have retired for the night and silence and darkness have settled down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary rounds.” -Cited in Cook, E. T. The Life of Florence Nightingale. (1913) Vol 1, p 237.
Nurses today carry on that tradition of being the human face to people they’ve never met; the reassuring bedside presence to those in fear of uncertainty; the caring experts to patients too sick to care for themselves; and much much more…I have the privilege of witnessing this daily in our hospital.
Starting today – on Nightingale’s very own birthday – is National Nursing Week in Canada*, and there is no better time to take a moment to show them our appreciation for all that they do. Without them, there is no healthcare as we know it.
Kudos to you, Ladies (& men) with the Lamps!
*it is interesting to note that initially in 1971 the International Council of Nurses first designated May 12th as International Nurses Day. It wasn’t until 1985 that the Canadian Health Minister expanded it, declaring the second week of May (or whichever Mon-Sun that includes the 12th) as National Nursing Week. In 1993, the American Nursing Association decided to make their own National Nursing Week, but having it end exactly on Nightingale’s birthday instead – hence the differing days that get celebrated in North America.