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The Catalyst

Nursing event honors Florence Nightingale's life, career

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

The MUSC College of Nursing hosted a multi-event celebration, Nov. 7–8, to honor the life and accomplishments of Florence Nightingale, famed nursing pioneer, philosopher of modern nursing, statistician, and social reformer of enormous scope and importance.

An exhibition at the Charleston Library Society featured more nearly 20 story-panels, on loan for the month from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, which highlighted Nightingale's life, as well as historical items from the college’s archives, including the college’s own framed copy of the Nightingale Pledge; framed photographs of 11 uniform styles worn by MUSC students, 1886 to 1982; a reproduction of a Nightingale letter donated by an alumnus; and nursing dolls, caps, pins and photographs.

In an exciting turn of events, co-chair of the college’s development committee, Kay Chitty, Ed.D., R.N., arranged for world-renowned Nightingale expert, Lynn McDonald, Ph.D., to attend the two-day celebration and address the more than 170 guests who attended and visited the exhibition.

College of Nursing dean Dr. Gail Stuart, from left, joins Drs. Lynn McDonald and Kay Chitty at the Nov. 7 event held at the Charleston Library Society. photo by Anne Thompson, Digital Imaging

Gail W. Stuart, Ph.D., dean of the College of Nursing and Distinguished University Professor, introduced McDonald, a former member of the Canadian Parliament and university professor emerita at the University of Guelph, Ontario, and described the enormity of McDonald’s 16–volume series based on Nightingale's collected works.

McDonald acquainted audiences with Nightingale’s conception of nursing, her ideas, analyses, and the realities of nursing care during that time. McDonald stated that Nightingale’s approach to patient care, her procedures and principles are still relevant today, and her methodologies, impeccable. For instance, infection control, while not a term used in that day, was a major focus of her evidence-based research, as the deathrate in her hospital was 40 percent. Nightingale greatly attributed the incidence to the environment, particularly, filth. McDonald described the filth in the wards and the water supply, lack of ventilation, vermin and soiled laundry. Nightingale is praised for addressing and improving the sanitary conditions of army hospitals.

In her book, Florence Nightingale At First Hand, McDonald reminds people that Nightingale, while a strong woman with opinions of her own, also had a sense of humor. For example, on what to boil for disinfection, Nightingale included: “…yourself and everything within reach, including the surgeon.”
Nightingale left copious material on the war, according to McDonald, including numerous letters that detailed problems in the hospitals and her recommendations. Her contributions were recognized internationally and her works copyrighted and subsequently serialized by the Saturday Evening Post. McDonald explained that Nightingale was respected, honored and considered a national heroine. She was known as “the Lady with the Lamp,” because she ministered to the soldiers throughout the night.

Nightingale was a significant 19th-century scholar who integrated scholarship with political activism, McDonald declared. She established the first secular nursing school at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, wanting to make nursing a respectable profession — believing that nurses should be trained in science. She advocated strict discipline, attention to a healthful environment, and felt that nurses should possess an innate empathy for their patients.

Also on display for one day was the Florence Nightingale Letters Exhibit, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and This exhibit featured two letters that were handwritten by Florence Nightingale in 1861 and information about her life and works.

To view McDonald’s lecture,Using Florence Nightingale’s Principles in Nursing Practice, visit

December 1, 2013

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