Reputations: Florence Nightingale—Iron Maiden

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 21 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:172
  1. Jane Salvage (, nursing director
  1. Emap Healthcare

    BBC 2, 17 July at 9 pm

    As a student nurse, few things enraged me more than the thought of Florence Nightingale. Upheld as the queen of all role models by the nursing establishment, she epitomised everything that I thought was wrong with my chosen profession. What nursing needed was assertiveness and intellect, not sticky-sweet submissiveness and self sacrifice.

    Nearly 25 years on, Flo is still revered. Her birthday on 12 May is celebrated by millions worldwide as International Nurses Day: a nice, neatly uniformed nurse is chosen to carry a commemorative lamp down the aisle of Westminster Abbey, while Nightingale medals are awarded in remote countries like Uzbekistan (I know because I got one).

    As I learned later, Miss Nightingale herself hated all the “lady with the lamp” guff and was much happier ploughing through …

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