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What Would Florence Nightingale Think of Nursing Today?


Today, May 12, is Florence Nightingale’s 200th birthday. She was extraordinary – a trailblazer and role model for all nurses that followed her. All those decades ago, she helped establish the standards of care by placing emphasis on the basic necessities. The care she provided in the mid-1800s serves as the foundation for the way we care today, which begs the question: What would Florence Nightingale think of nursing today?

Undoubtedly, she would see the parallels between nursing care in both eras and be amazed by how far the nursing profession has come, especially at LVHN. As we celebrate National Nurses Week, “The Year of the Nurse,” and our exceptional nursing team, let’s explore how we are modeling Florence Nightingale’s brilliance during the greatest challenge we have ever faced: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delivering the safest possible care

Then: Florence Nightingale knew hand washing was one way to prevent illness and keep people safe.

Now at LVHN: The people of our community can count on LVHN for the safest possible care. Our nurses are at the forefront of providing that care. At the onset of the pandemic, nurses in our infection control department worked tirelessly to ensure our clinical staff had the supplies, education and resources to do their job safely. Now, caregivers across LVHN don layers of personal protective equipment to provide the safest care possible to very sick patients in a challenging environment.

Florence Nightingale would be impressed by the skill and expertise of LVHN nurses to provide safe and effective care. The next time you wash your hands to protect yourself from COVID-19, think about her.

Addressing patients’ emotional health

Then: Florence Nightingale would provide recreational and educational activities for patients and help them write letters to loved ones.

Now at LVHN: Our nurses do so much more than provide world-class care. They are renowned for their compassion and emotional support. The stories about how our nurses go above and beyond for patients are countless, especially during this pandemic. In a time when hospital visitation is limited, our nurses are an extension of patients’ families. They pick patients up when they are down, celebrate with them when milestones are achieved, and make patients and their loved ones feel that they are part of the LVHN family.

Take Stacey Lang, RN, for example. One of her patients was nearing the end of life. He wanted to craft a letter to his 17-year-old daughter but didn’t have the strength to write. So, as he dictated the letter, Stacey wrote down the words, and he mustered the strength to sign it. Stacey did something more. She bought birthday, graduation, engagement and wedding cards. Over the next few days, Stacey and her colleagues wrote in the cards the words the man wanted to share with his daughter during life’s milestones. He signed each one.

Florence Nightingale would be touched by the ability of Stacey and all our nurses to “heal, comfort and care” for our community with such compassion.

Earning respect

Then: Florence Nightingale wandered the wards at night to provide support to the patients. This earned her the title of “Lady with the Lamp.” It helped her gain the respect of the soldiers and medical establishment alike.

Now at LVHN: Our nurses have always been respected by the people we serve. However, their work during the pandemic has bolstered their reputation. The care they provide is nothing less than heroic. During a time when families are quarantined, they leave their families unselfishly and take every possible step to keep their loved ones safe when they return home. At work, they bravely care at the bedside. And when COVID-19 patients are discharged, our nurses are there to celebrate as they reunite with their loved ones.

Florence Nightingale would be in awe of the level of respect LVHN nurses have earned from our patients, community and fellow nurses nationwide.

What do I think?

Overall, Florence Nightingale’s impression of LVHN nurses would be the same as mine. You are skilled, knowledgeable and brave. You are compassionate, comforting, inspiring and driven. You are heroes. You are amazing. You would have made Florence Nightingale #LVHNProud.

Happy Nurses Week! Thanks for all you do during the Year of the Nurse – and always!


About the Author

Terry Capuano is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN). She has served in this role since 2015. She is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives and is a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

Learn more about nursing excellence at LVHN by visiting LVHN.org/nursing.