POPULATION HEALTHFlorence Nightingale’s words help the healing environment
By Dr. Kathryn Fiddler
Saturdays at my house meant we had two choices: get up early, find your bike and get out of the house; or stay inside and clean with mom.
As often as we could, my brother, sister and I got up and out early, but a few times we stayed in and helped. We vacuumed, washed the floors, cleaned bathrooms and changed all the sheets. As much as we complained, changing sheets was our favorite part.
As a second-generation nurse, mom was trained to make a clean bed, and she made sure we knew how as well. She always said clean sheets were important to good health.
We would strip the beds and she would wash the sheets, then hang them on the clothesline to dry. Once they were dry, we would carry them to our bedroom.
The memory of carrying crisp fresh sheets to my room still makes me smile and brings me comfort. We pulled the sheets tight, made hospital corners on the ends and smoothed out the blankets.
Today I still relish my fresh sheets. I change them weekly and find great joy in slipping under the sheets in a freshly made bed.
Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing who was born in 1820, also believed in the importance of clean linens. While supporting soldiers in the Crimean War, she taught the nurses the importance of environment to healing.
She educated them on the healing value of fresh air, quiet surroundings, clean food, water and clean sheets. Her work led to reduced illness and death for British soldiers in the
war. Her work also inspired the training, for centuries, of nurses to come.
Today, 200 years later, the World Health Organization and the American Nurses Association has named 2020 the year of the nurse, in honor of the birth of Florence Nightingale, and in recognition of all nurses and midwives throughout the world.
Nurses are the largest group of healthcare professionals in the United States and have been named the most trusted profession for 18 years in a row.
Here on the Delmarva Peninsula, we have nurses in hospitals, in providers’ offices, in health departments, community centers, insurance companies, hospice, skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, home health, veterans’ agencies and so many other places.
They have roles as mothers, fathers, caregivers, neighbors, spouses, and they support healthcare delivery and community outreach every day.
The skills, knowledge and roles of the 21st century nurse have all evolved since Florence Nightingale, but her philosophy of caring for the whole person and the value of cleanliness and disease prevention continues to be critical to good health today, and among our core values of nursing.
Dr. Kathryn Fiddler, DNP, MS, RN, NE-BC, is Vice President for Population Health Management at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury.