1. Lim, Fidelindo MA, RN

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Few of today's nurses have read Florence Nightingale's work or derive inspiration from it. When I invoke Florence Nightingale's words in clinical teaching, I often get a blank stare from students and experienced nurses alike. Many don't realize that Nurses Day is celebrated on May 12th because that's Florence Nightingale's birthday.


Nightingale's cutting-edge book, Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not, published in 1860, gave the world a handbook for taking care of the sick and a blueprint for running a healthcare system. When you consider the following direct quotations from the original edition of her book and compare them to modern standards, you can see the undeniable relevance of her work to today's healthcare problems.


On infection control

"True nursing ignores infection, except to prevent it." (p. 20) "Every nurse ought to be careful to wash her hands very frequently during the day. If her face too, so much the better." (p. 53)1


2010 National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs): "Comply with either the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hand hygiene guidelines or the current World Health Organization (WHO) hand hygiene guidelines."2WHO Hand Hygiene Guidelines, 2005: "Hand hygiene, a very simple action, remains the primary measure to reduce health-care associated infection and the spread of antimicrobial resistance, enhancing safety of care across all settings."3


On patient confidentiality

"And remember every nurse should be one who is to be depended upon, in other words, capable of being a 'confidential' nurse...she must be no gossip, vain talker; she should never answer questions about her sick except to those who have a right to ask them." (p. 70)1


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA): "The goal of the privacy rule is to assure that individuals' health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care."4


On evidence-based practice

"The most important practical lesson that can be given to nurses is to teach them what to observe-how to observe-what symptoms indicate improvement-what the reverse-which are of importance-which are of none-which are the evidence of neglect-and of what kind of neglect." (p. 59)1


The Institute of Medicine, 2001: "Evidence-based practice is the integration of best research with clinical expertise and patient values."5


Heed lessons from our history

Florence Nightingale has been dead for 101 years, but she could have written the 2010 NPSGs. I encourage you to grab a copy of her book and try to envision the future of nursing and healthcare so deeply rooted in the past.




1. Nightingale F. Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not. London: Harrison and Sons; 1860. [Context Link]


2. The Joint Commission. 2010 National Patient Safety Goals (NPSGs) effective July 1, 2010. [Context Link]


3. World Health Organization. WHO launches global patient safety challenge; issues guidelines on hand hygiene in health care; 2005. [Context Link]


4. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules. [Context Link]


5. Institute of Medicine. Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2001:147. [Context Link]