Already a legend, but nearly crippled by the Crimean fever that would leave her with a debilitating, chronic illness for 30 years, Nightingale returned quietly to England where she began what would become the greater body of her work over the next four decades: reform of the British Army medical system; establishment of the Nightingale Training School for nurses; publication of Notes on Nursing, the seminal text for the theory and practice of modern nursing; publication of extensive written government documents and numerous authoritative books and articles; and the beginning of her role as activist, catalyst, and leader in sanitation reform (now know as public health) in England, India, and throughout the world.
There has been much speculation about the source of Nightingale’s motivation and inspiration. Many authors have rightly examined her religious and spiritual life because for Nightingale, the spiritual life was a daily reality. But there is a further step a giant step that she took in her life that separated her from most mortals, which brings the lights up full on the scene.
This is the fact, as plain as the nose on one’s face: Florence Nightingale was a modern mystic in the Western religious tradition. Understanding her mysticism in its full context is the key to understanding the fabled "Nightingale power" and how this legendary healer brilliantly illuminated and forever changed human consciousness, the role of women, and nursing and public health systems in the middle of the 19th century.
Many people today are aware of Nightingale’s secular contributions to the nursing profession, but that is only a part of her legacy. Her spiritual journey can also be of immense help to all individuals in traversing their personal and spiritual paths. Nightingale exemplifies a degree of courage and fearlessness that is rare in any era. She shows that it is possible to honor our spiritual vision and integrate it with the highest standards of nursing practice - to "walk our talk."
Barbara M. Dossey,
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE: MYSTIC, VISIONARY, HEALER (Commemorative Edition). Philadelphia: F. A. Davis, 2010.
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE TODAY: HEALING, LEADERSHIP, GLOBAL ACTION, Nursesbooks.org, 2005
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