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I had just finished reading a biography of Florence Nightingale when I read your editorial several months after publication. As a practicing nurse for 43 years, I have been retired for 3 years, and had never read about this remarkable woman. I was tremendously inspired by her drive, knowledge, intelligence, ideals, and great concern for nursing as a profession. I found nothing that upholds the notion that Florence Nightingale represents the "negative and backward elements of nursing." Neither is her agenda outdated, because, as long as she lived and was able to communicate with colleagues, she always strove to elevate nursing to a higher level of professionalism and public acceptance.


The image of "the lady with the lamp" was only a small part of her career. She felt there was so much more to her contribution to the profession. She was a fighter, and strongly believed nurses needed to work with others to build relationships to improve patient care, instead of being rebels and antagonists. Many in our present time could learn a lesson from her example.


Those rebelling against retaining Florence Nightingale as our role model are most likely rebelling against a myth. This could well be a result of never having read a complete biography. Surely by now this is required reading for all nursing students in all settings!! It was not while I was in school....three a diploma student, a baccalaureate student, and a graduate student. Bottom line, have all nurses read the biography of Florence Nightingale. Then the debate would go away!!


M. C. Miller, RN, MSN, retired


Florence Nightingale no longer relevant?"For us who Nurse, our Nursing is a thing, which, unless in it we are makingprogressevery year, every month, every week, take my word for it, we are going backwards." This statement, made by Florence Nightingale in 1872, is no longer relevant to nursing?


Why? How?


If anything, we have made Ms. Nightingale irrelevant by doing to her what she chided us in 1883 never to do:"Are we progressing or are we stereotyping?" By sanctifying Ms. Nightingale we diminish her. She was a real person who networked and cajoled and used whatever legal means necessary to meet her goals; when she couldn't solve a problem by going straight ahead she found a way to go around it. She used her influence and wealth to promote her agenda: the legitimization of nursing.


Florence Nightingale is a symbol of what we aspire to be.


We should continue to celebrate Florence Nightingale because she was the first. She paved the way for those who followed and who will continue to come to this wonderful profession. Whenever we read her words we see ourselves; that is why she is relevant today. She set the standard we are still trying to follow:


"We remember that we have scarcely crossed the threshold of uncivilized civilization of nursing; there is still so much to do. Don't let us stereotype mediocrity. We are still on the threshold of nursing."


Kathy Duckett, RN, BSN




Nightingale, F. (1982). Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not. Commemorative Ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.