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I am grateful to Dr. Dossey for taking the time and effort to respond to my articles on Florence Nightingale. I admire Dr. Dossey's work; her deep and sustained interest in spirituality and holistic nursing has resulted in a number of seminal publications, and her work is widely recognized and respected. In addition, Dr. Dossey is arguably one of the most influential contemporary biographers of Florence Nightingale. Her complimentary attention to Nightingale's spirituality provides an important counterbalance to the plethora of disparaging and dismisssive discourse on Nightingale. Because of her intimate familiarity with primary Nightingale sources, Dr. Dossey is well-placed to comment on articles about Florence Nightingale, including my own. Thus, I was surprised to learn that, rather than commenting on the historical accuracy of the articles, Dr. Dossey chose to focus mainly on interpretive issues-that is, differences between her perspectives on spirituality and those reflected in the article. Although I agree with Dr. Dossey's suggestion that I could have paid more attention to defining terms like "mystic," "mysticism" and "spirituality," my intent was not to explore various interpretations of spirituality but rather to invite JCN readers to reassess their own preconceived ideas about Nightingale.

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My interest here is to reiterate the main points of my articles and, in so doing, to address and clarify two areas that Dr. Dossey found troublesome. While I recognize that this does not get at the heart of Dr. Dossey's critique, it is not my intention to debate or defend any particular theological position or worldview; others are more qualified than I to take up that discussion. Instead, I will limit myself to responding to concerns listed under Dr. Dossey's headings "Nightingale's Behavior" and "Religious Tolerance."


Nightingale's Behavior.

According to Dr. Dossey, "Dr. Grypma implies that Nightingale's pattern of behavior may render her unfit as a role model." This comment is surprising, and even on reviewing the article, I cannot see anywhere where I've suggested that nurses take up a view of Nightingale as a poor role model. Nor have I suggested that Nightingale would be a good Christian role model if only she was "nice. "What I have done is questioned the value of promoting Nightingale as either a mean-spirited woman ("fiend"), or a symbol of nursing ("lady with the lamp"), as others have done before me; neither image is accurate or complete. In the final sentence I write, "Contemporary nurses can learn from-and dare I say, emulate-her intellectual mischief, her unquenchable curiosity, her stubborn resistance to the status quo and her unrelenting search for God and his will in her life."1 Far from dismissing Nightingale as a poor role model, I suggest that nurses have much to learn from Nightingale-as long as it is Nightingale-the-person they look to, rather than Nightingale-the-symbol.


Religious Tolerance.

In this section, Dr. Dossey comments, "I am perplexed how Dr. Grypma can state that Nightingale 'never [horizontal ellipsis] made declarative statements about her views on religion or spirituality'" since Nightingale clearly had an intimate relationship with God. Here I believe Dr. Dossey has missed my point entirely, since throughout both articles I make it clear that Nightingale's relationship with God was central to her work, her being and her way of life. I believe the sentence Dr. Dossey refers to is best understood when read in its entirety, and with the preceding sentence. The original reads, "Nightingale should not be used to validate any certain beliefs about spirituality, Christian or otherwise. In fact, she never wrote a personal profession of faith or made declarative statements about her views of religion or spirituality." (emphasis added).2 Key to this sentence are the words, "profession of faith" and "declarative." While Nightingale certainly wrote copiously about religion and spirituality, I have yet to discover anything that could be comparable to a profession in a particular creed (e.g.: Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed)3 that would have linked Nightingale to a specific faith community. The issue is not her relationship with God, but her relationship with the established Christian church of her day.


As a historian, my aim is to gather the best evidence available with particular questions in mind (in this case, what is the predominant image of Nightingale, and how accurate is that image?). I strive to let the evidence speak for itself, meaning that I am constantly mindful of human tendencies (mine included) to impose preconceived ideas onto the data. The Nightingale I discovered through reading primary sources was quite different from the image I had imagined (or inherited). This led to further questions: Why have I perceived Nightingale in a particular way? How has her image changed over time? What influenced that change? Through the "Florence Nightingale's Changing Image?" JCN articles, I have attempted to draw the reader's attention to the various ways that Nightingale has been portrayed, to point out the discrepancies between these portrayals and to raise new questions about who Nightingale was and what that might mean for nurses today. I am grateful to Dr. Dossey for continuing the conversation.


1 Sonya Grypma, "Florence Nightingales Changing Image? Part 2: From Saint to Fiend to Modern Mystic," JCN 22, no. 4 (Fall 2005): 13. [Context Link]


2 Ibid. [Context Link]


3 A creed (from the Latin credo, "I believe") is an authoritative statement of the main beliefs of the Christian faith to which believers agree. Biblical religion has always been credal; Scripture contains confessionals about God (Deut 6:4), Jesus (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3), Christ's incarnation, savring death and resurrection (Rom 1:3-4;1 Cor 15:3-4;1 Jn 4:2) and the Trinity (Mt 28:19). The Apostles Creed, not written by the apostles but affirming the apostles' teachings and fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, appears to originally have been a Roman baptismal liturgy found in documents as early as circa 200. The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) added clarification that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. Both creeds were formally sanctioned by official church councils. (From Sinclair B. Ferguson, J. I. Packer and David F. Wright, eds., New Dictionary of Theology [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988; Cedar Rapids, IA: Laridian Electronic Publishing, 2005] and Michael Martin, "Symbolum Apostolorum," Thesaurus Precum Latinarum. Accessed January 19, 2006 at [Context Link]