The Age of Hospital Reform.
So this was the first real intervention of the
press in the affairs of the war office, this
organisation was used to having complete
control over its affairs and used to covering
up the ghastly errors that were often caused by
bad leadership or organisation.
It was after William Russell famously
wrote in the Times in September 1854 appealing
to women to volunteer to help the wounded. He
"Are there no devoted
women amongst us, able and willing to go forth
to minister to the sick and suffering soldiers
of the east in the hospitals in Scutari? Are
none of the daughters of England, at this
extreme hour of need, ready for such work of
mercy? Must we fall far below the French in
self-sacrifice and devoutness"
This article was the light that opened the eyes
of all those back in Great Britain of the
appalling nature of war and also the seemingly
lack of concern by the Government about the
plight of the wounded in faraway Crimea.
Sir Sidney Herbert, the Secretary of War, was
forced to make a decision to try and improve
conditions at Scutari Hospital.
He knew Florence as he was a family friend of
the Nightingales and more importantly knew of
Florence’s Nightingales expertise as a nurse
So he contacted her and requested that she go
to the Crimea to help the sick, and wounded of
the war. She accepted without hesitation. The
decision to send her was in November 1854.
Herbert was forced to resign in February,
1855, because of the mess that the Government
had got them self into over the Crimea, but
remained an active promoter of military reform
until his early death.
Nightingale was given the title
"Superintendent of the
She was at first funded
to enlist a group of 20 nurses.
She preceded to Scutari hospital, which
was just outside Constantinople, now a part of
There was opposition to
this deployment especially from the Military,
as the deployment of women nurses had been
tried before. These women however were
untrained and were of the lower class they some
were not interested in the needs of the injured
or sick soldier. Most of them drank too
much and caused more problems than they
Her arrival at Scutari was the day before
the battle of Inkerman.
The hospital facility
at Scutari was overcrowded, and was classed as
a 3758 bedded hospital. It was infested with
vermin and was filthy, the mortality rate was
high. Deaths were due to cholera, wound
sepsis, dysentery and “Crimea fever”
How Florence Nightingale and her
team dealt with the situation at Scutari is
legendary. It was said of her that:
"Her gift was her power
to dominate, which lifted her from out the
ranks of those who are only 'able' to the
highest reached by those who are great".
Florence Nightingale's nurses were off duty at
8pm and male orderlies took over for the night.
Only Florence Nightingale ventured onto
the wards after 8pm. The picture of the lady
with the lamp is familiar to most people around
Nightingale and her nurses brought down
the mortality rate to below four per cent from
its original 40 plus per cent.
The lessons learned from the Crimean war went
on to influence the military’s medical service,
which from then on incorporated a nurse led
service on the wards to look after post op and
"I think one's feelings
waste themselves in words; they ought all to be
distilled into actions which bring