The Crimean War is important for many reasons. The war lead to Italian independence and the refurbishing of the British army, but most importantly, it gave birth to modern nursing practices. Florence Nightingale is a famous nurse from the Victorian Age who helped bring about the practical side of nursing through her work on sanitation. Mary Seacole used a different approach than Nightingale, being responsible for the love and “mothering” involved in nursing. Despite the different methods they used, both Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole worked to improve the conditions of hospitals and medical knowledge after witnessing the horrors of the Crimean War. Without these two great women, nursing would not be where it is today. The Crimean War was a time of sickness and disease among soldiers. Over one million lives were lost. According to the BBC, “The human cost was immense, 25,000 British, 100,000 French and up to a million ,Russians died, almost all of disease and neglect (5)." This was a result of unsanitary conditions.
Many of the supply ships were not making it to the warfront, leading to the war effort’s lack of many things, including supplies necessary to promote safe and sanitary conditions, even plain soap. According to an article from the University of Cambridge, the war hospitals were “poorly staffed, with insufficient supplies, and the medical and sanitary conditions were awful (4)." This resulted in the high mortality rate of the war. Without adequate supplies, there was little that the nurses could do. The nurses of the war effort had to work with what they could to try and save the soldiers’ lives. As a result, there was much disease and infection. Mary Seacole was one of the greatest nurses of her time. Although she used a different approach than Nightingale, the soldiers still revered her, referring to her as “Mother Seacole.” According to an article from New York University, “The soldiers called her Mother Seacole because she cared for their material and spiritual needs (7).” Seacole treated all soldiers as if they were her own blood. Aside from mothering her patients, according to The British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, Seacole also “prescribed remedies and dressed wounds (1)” as well as “visited and nursed sick and injured soldiers in their huts, at the Land Transport Corps Hospital opposite her hotel and, despite the dangers, cared for the wounded and dying on the battlefields (1).” Seacole risked her own life just to make sure the soldiers died as comfortably as possible. Mary Seacole also saw the importance of sanitation. In an article from The British Journal of Healthcare Assistance, it states that Mary Seacole “appreciated the importance of hygiene, ventilation, warmth, hydration, rest, empathy, good nutrition and care for the dying (1).” This was especially important due to the high death toll from disease. Seacole used her upbringing and any supplies she had to make the soldier’s lives were as great as they could be given the conditions.
If there was a solider or person near Seacole’s hotel that could not pay for medical care, she gave it for free. Without Seacole, there would have been many more casualties in the war.Florence Nightingale had a more practical approach to the care of the soldiers of the Crimean War. According to an article from the University of Cambridge, “Nightingale worked towards improvements in sanitation, nutrition, and activity for the patients of the hospitals (4).” Nightingale worked tirelessly to ensure the soldiers we taken care of to the best of her ability. Nightingale would even walk the ward late at night to check on her patients. She carried around a lamp, earning her the title ‘the lady with the lamp’. With the limited supplies on hand, there was little to be done to help sanitation. Despite her efforts, many were still exposed to unsanitary conditions which resulted in a high mortality rate. According to Marjie Bloy, Ph. D, “There were over 2000 sick and wounded in the hospital and in February 1855 the death-rate rose to 42%. The War Office ordered the sanitary commissioners at Scutari to carry out sanitary reforms immediately, after which the death-rate declined rapidly until in June it had fallen to 2% (3).” Although many lives were lost, Nightingale’s efforts finally paid off. The deaths of the soldiers were not in vain. According to an article from the University of Cambridge (4), “Nightingale kept meticulous records of the number of deaths, and the causes of deaths, so that on her return to Great Britain she could justify the need for improving conditions in hospitals.” This allowed Nightingale to make a difference and change the way nursing was conducted for a brighter future. After the horrors Nightingale saw, she worked that much harder to reform the way sanitation was handled not only in war times, but in the medical field everywhere.After the war, Nightingale stayed vigilant in her task of ensuring that sanitary conditions were had for all medical wants. According to Bloy, “In November 1855 a Nightingale fund had been set up to found a training school for nurses (3).” This allowed The Nightingale School of Nursing to open, leading to competent nurses for all situations. From the records she kept in the Crimea, Nightingale was able to change sanitary conditions in combat situations. According to Bloy, “In 1857 she issued an exhaustive and confidential report on the workings of the army medical departments in the Crimea and in 1858 she published Notes on Matters affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army. In 1858 a Commission was appointed to inquire into the sanitary condition of the army: it set a high value on her evidence (3).” The commission found that the conditions were atrocious and updated their sanitation policies. According to Bloy, “Nightingale was involved in establishing the East London Nursing Society (1868), the Workhouse Nursing Association and National Society for providing Trained Nurses for the Poor (1874) and the Queen's Jubilee Nursing Institute (1890) (3).” Through Nightingale’s commitment, nursing finally became a career. Nightingale paved the way for nursing to become a career for women everywhere. When a dispute came to light in India, Nightingale did all she could to ensure the people there were well taken care of. According to Bloy, “she became interested in the sanitary condition of the army and people [in India]. From her work, a Sanitary Department was established in the Indian government (3).” Nightingale changed nursing around the world, making medical procedures safe for all.The nursing school in St. Thomas’ Hospital in London was the first of its kind. All modern nursing schools descend from this one school. Florence Nightingale established the school to teach nurses how to properly care for a patient, with an emphasis on patient hygiene and sanitation. Before the school was opened nurses, in the few places they existed, were trained to be a doctor’s aide. When Nightingale opened the school, she wanted the focus not to be on training an aide, but to train a whole new profession. Nurses after the school opened were trained to care for patients instead of helping doctors. Without Florence Nightingale and the opening of the first nursing school, nurses would not be who they are today.Despite their different heritage and upbringing, Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale both played a major role in the modernization of nursing practices. Through the love of Seacole and the vigilance of Nightingale, the nursing profession was changed dramatically. Seacole is responsible for the affection in modern nursing. Nightingale brought about the sanitation standards of war efforts as well as the training of competent nurses. Without these two great women, nursing, and the medical field would still be stuck in the Dark Ages. Works Cited Anionwu, Elizabeth N. “Mary Seacole: Nursing Care in Many Lands.” British Journal of Healthcare Assistants. 6.5 (May 2012). Web. 30 November 2013.Bessonov, Yuri. “Russian Nurses after the Crimean War.” Journal of Nursing. Journal of Nursing. 30 November 2013. Web. 30 November 2013.http://rnjournal.com/journal-of-nursing/russian-nurses-after-the-crimean-war Bloy, Marjie Ph.D. “Florence Nightingale (1820-1910).” The Victorian Web. 3, Jan. 2012. Web. 30 November 2013.http://www.victorianweb.org/history/crimea/florrie.html Ims25. “Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War.” Blog Posting. Understanding Uncertainty. The University of Caimbrige. July 10 2008. Web. 30 November 2013.http://understandinguncertainty.org/node/204 Lambert, Andrew. “The Crimean War.” BBC.com. BBC. March 29 2011. Web. 30 November 2013.http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/crimea_01.shtml “Mary Seacole (1805-1881).” BBC.com. BBC. 30 November 2013. Web. 30 November 2013.http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/seacole_mary.shtml Mathiasen, Helle. “No Place for Ladies: The Untold Story of Women in the Crimean War.” Nyu.edu. New York University. April 17 2010. Web. 30 November 2013.http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=viewHYPERLINK "http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=13132"&HYPERLINK "http://litmed.med.nyu.edu/Annotation?action=view&annid=13132"annid=13132 McDonald, Lynn. “Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole: Nursing’s Bitter Rivalry.” HistoryToday. 62.9 (2012). Web. 30 November 2013.http://www.historytoday.com/lynn-mcdonald/florence-nightingale-and-mary-seacole-nursings-bitter-rivalry National Geographic Education Staff. “Mary Seacole Adventurer in Jamaica, Panama, and the Crimean War.” National Geographic. Nov. 27 2013. Web. 30 November 2013.http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/news/mary-seacole/?ar_a=1 Ron Ramdin. Mary Seacole. London: Haus Publishing, 2006. Print