Role Of Faith In The Life Of Florence Nightingale

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Faith can move mountains. These mountains are symbolic representing numerous aspects of our lives. Various accounts of faith have been recorded in the Bible, exhibiting its transformative power. Faith influences the character and nature of a person. Florence Nightingale is one such example, a revelation in the 19th century. Modern nursing can be attributed to her pioneering works as she sought to improve the state of nursing care in hospitals. She was also a feminist force in that era as she proved that women can be hard workers through her extensive work in mission hospitals. She authored various titles that gave her readers a different perspective on religion and women in the work force.

Florence Nightingale’s inspiring and progressive works were as a result of her deep faith in God, believing that serving others, in her case, through nursing, was a calling to serve from God. Points of discussion Florence developed her faith early in life which would later on affect her life choices. Her family was part of the Unitarian sect that was based on liberal beliefs and humanitarian activities. Her family had taken part in these activities. Her mother, Frances Nightingale, however, later on insisted that the family joins an established church which was the Anglican church in England. The family therefore started practicing Anglicanism while also keeping aspects of their Unitarian background (Nightingale, 2017). This formed the basis of what would be Florence’s deeply rooted faith and belief in God. The proverb, “Train up a child in a way he should go, and he will not depart from it” is depicted in her life as she remains faithful to the teachings of Unitarianism and Anglicanism that she received as a child.

Moreover, her belief in her calling created a vacuum in her that could only be filled during service. She was never contented by the life she lived. Her upper-class, unmarried status meant that she had a life that was mostly meaningless to her. She sought for a purpose worth more than basic travel. She sought to make an impact through her life. Most of her young adult days were spent studying various literature including government documents (Nightingale, Vicinus, 1990). She believed that it was God’s purpose for her to serve, thus, she would sneak into villages and schools to work, offering her service to others. Nightingale was determined to serve as a nurse. She expresses her belief and faith in God by having an unwavering stand. The foundation of Unitarianism further increased her need to serve as a nurse (Nightingale, 2017).

Her mother’s rejection of her plea led her into depression and suicidal thoughts (Nightingale, 2017). However, she kept her faith, believing that she would work as a nurse and, through the help of her aunt Mai, her mother was able to compromise and go back on her hard stance, allowing her to study nursing under certain terms (Nightingale, 2017). Her unwavering belief yielded results she wanted at the appointed time. Faith inspired a spirit of self-denial in her, moving her to serve where she believed God wanted her. In the 19th Century, the path of women was predetermined. In her case, she was likely to follow the footsteps of her mother becoming a hostess as was common with ladies of her time (Nightingale, 1992). Self-denial from the thrills of life was exercised as she denied two marriage proposals, showing a strong unwillingness to spend her life raising a family. Service in hospitals was what she longed for. She had a deep compassion for those who were suffering, believing that it was her duty to help them (Nightingale, 2017). She sought to save the human race from needless death and suffering. She remained steadfast in her bid to serve as a nurse despite the challenges she received such as beginning her nursing studies late in life.

Her faith gave her confidence in service delivery leading her to wherever her services were required. The battlefield was a reserve for men in the 19th century. Women were hardly ever found there save for a few nurses. With her band of nurses, she bravely went to Crimea, where the battle was ongoing. She helped the wounded soldiers humbly under the directive of the doctor in charge.

Further, her belief that she was called to serve created in her a need to better whatever she is involved in. The sanitary conditions that she found in Crimea were wanting (Nightingale, 1992). She longed to change those conditions in Crimea, as well as other battlefields. She believed that the healing of patients required a sanitary environment. Her actions and results influenced the creation of sanitary teams as part of the army that would aid in the infirmary during battles. Her works spanned beyond the army. While in India, her service was also experienced by the locals (Nightingale, Vicinus, 1990). She sought to improve the sanitary conditions of the civilian population in India. This was arguably one of her life’s greatest contributions. Faith resulted in her disrupting the status quo, demystifying the generally accepted view of a woman as one who is to be married and raise a family. It was almost every woman’s dream to be married in the 19th century. This had been conditioned by society, right from the pulpit in the churches to parents at home, all would push women towards marriage (Nightingale, 1851).

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She questions this social norm due to her belief that everyone has their own calling. Her argument was that women are being undermined. She sought to understand why marriage was placed before other important factors of life such as education. The role of women in society had grossly been understood. She challenged this lack of understanding by emphasizing that God had a calling for everyone, this calling was their life’s purposes (Nightingale, 1851).

Her faith led her to begin a lasting conversation on the roles of women that is, only lately, starting to be appreciated. Women have more purposeful lives beyond marriage. Her faith gave her the courage to write against issues she felt were not right with her church, the Anglican church. Her faith was not just blind faith, she questioned doctrinal issues based on her own understanding and faith of the word of God (Nightingale, 2017). She wrote, in one of her books, her concerns about certain issues that were arising in her church. These issues later blew up causing a lot of controversies, a famous one being the Gorham controversy (Nightingale, 2017).

She could not keep quiet about issues that concerned her religion and her faith. Whatever she felt was erroneous, she addressed it, giving her own opinion on the subject matter, which may have, in a way, showed her constant need to serve others. Faith made her isolated, avoiding family members and friends as she solely focused on her calling. She contracted an illness after returning from Crimea. She looked as though she would die. Her illness affected her brain function as she became psychoneurotic (Nightingale, Vicinus, 1990). Determined to continue with her calling, she used the illness to isolate herself from her friends and family, using that time to concentrate on the work she had loved most. She was working on various sanitary projects, both officially and unofficially.

In this work, she believed she was performing her true calling, which, according to her, supersedes even the service to family (Nightingale, Vicinus, 1990). In addition to this, she had started withdrawing from her family, only confiding in those who believed and comforted her. Her quarrels with her mother and sister over the course that her life should take created a rift that could not easily be sealed (Nightingale, 1851). Her strong convictions that she should serve where she believes she was called by God did not sit well with them. Her thinking on the cause of disease was influenced by faith.

The inspiration to have proper sanitary conditions in hospitals and infirmaries may have been as a result of her own view of diseases and how they come about (Nightingale, Vicinus, 1990). She believed that diseases were as a result of moral filth. She equated this to the poor sanitary conditions in war camps and concluded that poor sanitation may cause more harm for patients (Holton, 1984). Though her scientific basis may have been slightly flawed, her faith played a key role in inspiring the sanitation conditions that she preached wherever she went. Her views on how diseases come about could not be changed due to her strong belief and unwavering faith.


Faith informed the decisions that led to the creation of a feminist icon, a nursing revolutionary and a savior in Crimea. Without the influence of her upbringing in both Anglicanism and Unitarianism, Florence Nightingale would not have heard the same vigor and drive to pursue her true calling. Indeed, she was called by God in the services of men. Her revolutionary actions changed the course of history and pioneered many of the great health care services we receive today. For her, faith moved mountains. She was able to overachieve, accomplishing what many men and women only dreamt of.

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