What Would Nightingale Say About Educational Requirements for Nurses?

By | 2022-02-11T16:11:48-05:00 June 29th, 2010|0 Comments

Today’s nurses face a host of complicated issues in their day-to-day practice. During the centennial of Florence Nightingale’s death, Nurse.com asked noted Nightingale scholars to predict what the founder of modern-day nursing would make of it all.

How would Florence Nightingale view today’s education, including educational requirements for nurses, transition from school to practice and continuing education?

As a child and young woman, Florence Nightingale received a remarkable education. This process was private, as the education of women was not publicly conducted in early 19th-century England. Her father, himself Cambridge educated, provided much of the content and impetus for young Nightingale’s education. Selected tutors taught her advanced mathematics and philosophy. Nightingale read avidly, traveled the European continent and frequently corresponded with other intellectuals of the period. Through these experiences, she developed a profound respect for education.

However, it was difficult for her to learn to be a nurse. Nursing education at the time was most often associated with religious orders and was apprentice-based. Through persistence and careful observation, she developed skills in both nursing practice and administration. Ultimately, it was her desire to establish a school of nursing based on strong educational principles that would produce an exemplary workforce.

Nightingale perceived nursing as a profession; therefore, she demanded that nurses be educated, as opposed to merely experiencing an apprenticeship within the hospital. Given this perspective, I think it is likely that she would support nursing education being moved out of the hospital and into educational institutions.

Nightingale would be less concerned with degrees than curricula. She would examine the program of study to determine its fit for nursing education. She believed in the need for strong theoretical, as well as clinical, experiences. Care, she would think, should be based on the most up-to-date concepts and change as new evidence suggests an alternation in practice. She stated that nursing was separate from medicine, meaning there were (are!) separate nursing functions from medical functions and that together the disciplines join to provide healthcare for patients. Nursing functions are determined through ongoing assessment and empirical observation of the patients to determine the best nursing practices.

Nightingale had a solid foundation in statistics and kept meticulous records of nursing practice outcomes. In modern terms, this equates to nursing research. It is appropriate to assume that she would support the development of the science of nursing as currently represented by doctorally prepared nurses who conduct bench, sociological and educational studies to promote the profession. Formalized continuing education is a relatively recent concept. However, the idea that education is a lifelong process was a concept espoused by Nightingale.

For new nurses exiting their basic nursing education, I believe Nightingale would encourage them to survey the landscape of nursing to understand both the breadth and depth of the possibilities the profession offers. Nightingale expected both flexibility and adaptability as essential qualities from her staff. Education was viewed as the start, not the end, of a nursing career. Consequently, she would have believed clinical rotations in the basic curriculum to be fundamental yet not the provider of refined skills. This comes with both time and opportunity.

In order to promote a positive culture, Nightingale would expect that new employees should be prepared to work hard, learn to ask questions appropriately and in a timely fashion and attempt to be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.

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