Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale

Heart and Soul: The Story of Florence Nightingale

Gena K. Gorrell
For ages 12 and up
Tundra Books, 2000   ISBN: 978-0887767036

For many Florence Nightingale came to represent goodness, self sacrifice, courage, and determination. There is no doubt that she was all of these things. She was also a very difficult woman, for Florence was not like other people. Florence knew from an early age that she could not bear to spend her life frittering away her time entertaining, arranging flowers, sewing and generally being the delicate, indulged and fashionable female. It was a role her mother and sister were happy with but one which Florence couldn’t abide. Instead Florence wanted to do something meaningful with her life and she was lucky enough to discover what it was that she wanted to do - she wanted to become a nurse.

Florence’s family fought tooth and nail against their daughter going into nursing but they found that Florence was a force of nature, and she could not be denied. So Florence went to Germany to get trained in the skills she would need to be a nurse and then she took on the job of administering a London women’s hospital. Much work was needed and she completely changed the way in which nurses worked and conducted themselves. Her nurses were dedicated, hard working, sober women who took care of their patients with kindness and with attention to cleanliness and order.

When war broke out between Great Britain and Russia Florence left her country to serve as a nurse and hospital administrator in the war zone. She had to fight to be accepted and to be allowed to do what she was so good at - making a hospital a place where patients could be healed and not just a place where they died. Before her policies were put into place wounded and sick soldiers had no beds, little medical attention, inedible food, and they lived in the most unsanitary conditions imaginable. After she got to work the hospitals under her care were clean, the food was good, the care was much better, and the survival rate of patients went up enormously.

To achieve her goals however Florence had to be push and shove, to write hundreds of letters, to spend her own money, and most of all to bully people left, right and centre. She would write to Queen Victoria asking for her help and support, and used her influential friends to get through to people and to raise funds. Florence did whatever it took to get the job done and to bring about change, at great risk to her own health at times. Needless to say she made enemies who thwarted her whenever and however they could but they did not stop this incredible woman from practically single-handedly, and radically, changing nursing and hospital management for the better.