Nursing

The modern Nightingale: International Nurses Week 2018

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale. Public domain photo via Wiki Commons.

If I ask people to name a famous nurse, there’s a good chance they will think of Florence Nightingale.  She was a humanitarian, scientist, advocate, statistician, policymaker and yes, a nurse.

Born to a privileged family in Florence, Italy, in May of 1820, she was expected to grow up and be a woman of society. But she defied convention and left home at age 24 to study nursing.  She quickly became known as a reformer and advocate for public health.  She was tapped to consult with the British Army even though female nurses were not welcomed. Her measures reduced the death count during the Crimean War by two-thirds, earning recognition from the Queen Victoria of England. In 1893, the Hippocratic Oath was modified and became known as the Nightingale Pledge. Almost 200 years after her birth, it’s worth asking if her legacy is relevant today.  

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, …

Nurses are widely considered to be the universal caregivers in the world. An estimated 15 million nurses worldwide and nearly 3 million answer their call in the United States to be a nurse.  

to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.

Nurses have a unique ability to impact both the people they care for as well as the policies that govern how they carry out their duties. A recent Harris Poll found that 93 percent of nurses surveyed say they’re satisfied with nursing. Eighty-five percent say they are unlikely ever to switch careers. 

I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, …

Nurses take ethical and professional responsibility for protecting the safety and rights of their patients, and for their own profession. This is fundamental to nursing practice in all settings.  

and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.

In 45 states, advanced practice nurses are authorized to dispense medication, meaning that they can very often complete the complete cycle of care on their own, from patient check-in and diagnosis to treatment plan and prescription of treatments and medications as well as follow-up visits.  They have a record of safety and efficacy equal to or better than other care providers.

I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, …

The changing demands of this nation's complex healthcare environment require the highest level of knowledge and practice expertise to assure quality patient outcomes. Research has shown a clear link between higher levels of nursing education such as the doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) and better patient outcomes.  

and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. 

Nurses were ranked the most trusted profession in 2017, according to the annual Gallup poll on honesty and ethical standards. Nurses have held this ranking for the past 16 years. Eighty-two percent of Americans polled described nurses’ ethics as high or very high.

With loyalty will I endeavor… 

Advanced practice nurses often serve in a consulting capacity for the other nurses on their staffs. They may offer advice, give second opinions, help examine patients and craft treatment plans. They also often work to improve overall care in the settings at which they work and improve patient health delivery systems.

to aid the physician in his work, …

The rapid growth and success of advanced practice nurses has been described as a disruptive innovation — in that APNs can in many ways provide the same care or better care than physicians, at a lower cost in a more convenient setting. NP care represented a cost savings of 11 to 29 percent with no decrease in care quality.  Numerous studies have shown that nurse practitioners expand access to care, improve patient health outcomes, boost rural health care, lower primary care costs and reduce emergency room admissions.  

and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines nursing as “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations.”

Most nurses enter the field of nursing with the intent to help others and provide empathetic care for patients with critical physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.  Florence Nightingale began with these same ideas.  Two hundred years later, they are the same ideals I proudly hold as my own philosophy of what it is to be a nurse.


Sonia LuckeySonia Luckey, DNP, MA, APRN, FNP-BC, AHN-BC, PMHNP-BC is an assistant professorin Brandman University’s Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professionsand earned her DNP atBrandman University.

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