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Florence Nightingale Shaped COVID Care

This Women’s History Month, GLOBAL employees will highlight how women revolutionized science and medicine. In this blog post, Tracy Janus, Sr. VP of Regulatory Affairs & CMC, shares how century-old advice from Florence Nightingale helped us through the largest public health threat our generation has had to face.


Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) changed the face of nursing and healthcare globally and is regarded as the mother of modern nursing. She contributed significantly to the establishment of nursing as a respected profession for women. Her most famous book is titled "Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not." First published in 1859, the book aimed to improve the standards of nursing care and served as a basic instruction manual for student nurses.

However, her legacy extended beyond nursing into healthcare management, epidemiology, and public health. Nightingale’s work and philosophies have not only stood the test of time, but her teachings were instrumental in guiding policymakers and healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some examples:

  1. Importance of Statistical Analysis: Nightingale pioneered the use of statistical graphics to depict the causes of mortality, which allowed her to convince the British Government to improve hygiene practices in military hospitals. Today, statistical analysis is equally important for understanding COVID-19 trends and outcomes. (1)

  2. Preparedness and Planning: Nightingale emphasized the need for adequate preparations and contingency plans to manage diseases and injuries, especially during wars. This principle applies to pandemics, where countries and healthcare systems must be equipped to handle sudden increases in cases. (2)

  3. Healthcare Worker Protection: Nightingale fought for better working conditions, including lighting, heating, and ventilation, for her nurses during the Crimean War. Protecting healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic was similarly crucial to ensure they don't suffer harm while caring for infected patients. (3)

  4. Community Engagement and Communication: Nightingale collaborated with local populations and international actors to raise funds for her nursing projects. In the same vein, clear communication and collaboration with communities were essential during the pandemic to ensure proper public health measures are adopted. (4)

  5. Evidence-Based Decision Making: Nightingale drew on empirical evidence to shape her healthcare practices and policies. Similarly, evidence-based decision making and science-backed public health strategies were essential to combating the pandemic. (5)


  1. Brasseur, L. (2019). Florence Nightingale, the First Female Data Analyst. Harvard Data Science Review, 1(2), 21-32.

  2. Hamric, A. B., Hanson, C. M., Tracy, M. F., & O'Grady, E. T. (Eds.). (2014). McCaffrey, Mary Elizabeth. In Textbook of Transitional Care for Children and Youth: Populations, Settings, Policy, and Practice (pp. 269-279). Springer Publishing Company.

  3. Boschma, G. (2016). Florence Nightingale and the Birth of Modern Nursing. Canadian Family Physician, 62(1), 22-23.

  4. Wilkins, K. (2016). Florence Nightingale and Public Health. Public Health Reviews, 37(1), 1-12.

  5. Roberts, M. E. (2002). Florence Nightingale and the Foundation of Modern Nursing Theory. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 7(2).

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