Florence Nightingale: Translational Leadership Lights the Way
Translational science refers to the work undertaken by leaders who speak “between” those on the front-lines of discovery and real-world practice to direct common thought towards understanding. As the present moment continues to be enraptured throughout the latest twists and turns of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, and its spread throughout our communities, I want to do justice to call to mind that we should pause to celebrate March as Women’s History Month by examining grace under fire.
Born in 1820 into a comparatively wealthy family, Florence Nightingale exemplified translational leadership throughout her undying legacy as a pioneer within healthcare, applied epidemiology, and statistics. Working to advance the profession of nursing as one which would meet the demands of war and illness, Nightingale aimed to empower brave and capable women to speak out for increased sanitation and common-sense practice within their care for others.
Nightingale defied Victorian social conventions by seeking out the labor of one below her social stature so that she might make good on her encouraging others towards deliberate action. She is remembered for famously stating that “I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions, and into actions which bring results.” Living in a world where so many have benefitted from the results manifest by Nightingale’s efforts, it is only appropriate that we pause to share thanks for the famed Lady with the Lamp.
In addition to her leadership throughout healthcare, Nightingale called for the relief of hunger and poverty throughout the British Crown’s territory and the expansion of female participation within the workforce. Known for her prolific writing, Nightingale had the exceptional ability to speak to audiences of all literacy levels to motivate action and empower change. Using knowledge shared by her father, Nightingale illustrated the spread of illness and compared rates of mortality and sickness through graphical illustration as an early thought-leader within applied statistics.
From humble beginnings as one who would, proverbially, burn the midnight oil to ensure that those in her care did not want for relief from their conditions, Nightingale rose to establish the world’s first secular nursing school in 1860 at London’s St. Thomas Hospital, which still operates today as a division of the King’s College London. International Nurses Day is celebrated on Nightingale’s birthday, May 12th, to commemorate her work and the Nightingale Pledge is undertaken by new nurses across the world who commit to the highest level of professionalism within their efforts to care for others.
Amidst the present uncertainties of our world, may we work towards becoming more like the committed example of brave women like Florence Nightingale who communicate with, care for, and empower others with radical clarity.