Book Review by Deva-Marie Beck, PhD, RN
International Co-Director, Nightingale Initiative for Global Health
In a lovely turn of words, author Alex Attewell enlightens us by “Illuminating Florence” Nightingale— the ‘lady with the lamp.’ We all know her by this phrase and — in each nursing generation —how ‘illuminating’ her relevance is a continuing challenge, delight and inspiration. His sub-title, ‘finding Nightingale’s legacy in your own practice,’ brings this ‘lady’— so loved by nurses for so long — easily home to each of us, now, where we live and work.
But the ‘how’ Alex ‘illuminates’ Nightingale is as significant as his title. For this is a keepsake book — collected to bring the essence of her illuminating work easily available to us in our time.
With a beautiful blend of Nightingale’s own texts, archives and graphics, mixed with contemporary photos and Alex’s own narrative summaries, this book brings Nightingale’s legacy to life for us.
|Author Alex Attewell, MBA, recently-retired Director of the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, UK. Photo from his website.|
It is an easily-affordable, easily-accessible way to source Nightingale’s best quotes relevant to you!
Using the headings: Management, Leadership and Theory, Alex features her own timeless, essential points — which nursing’s practice will always need to encompass. Combining Nightingale archives with photos of today’s nurses — both women and men — Alex shows us ‘graphic’ illustrations of how we still continue what she began. He illustrates the nitty-gritty action tasks of tending to the sick — as well as the constant vigilance needed to keep our environments supportive of healing and health. He highlights the ongoing ‘reflective practice’ needed to continue quality nursing ‘presence’ in the face of so much suffering — and the constant personal renewal required to sustain such a task.
I love how Alex shows Nightingale reading a book — placed beside a picture of a nurse, in the same posture, reviewing her laptop screen. Or, on another page, Nightingale is looking down in obvious sadness. Here, beside her, Alex places a nurse of today, who also takes a moment, head in hand, to process her own distress. Then, again, he shows a profile of Nightingale’s own determination beside a contemporary nurse colleague who looks each reader in the eye with the strength of her own purposefulness. And, of course, we see — across the pages — many versions of Nightingale in action, tending the sick and war-wounded. Of course, then, we see today’s nurses achieving the same.
|Two Nightingale archives used in Alex’s book. Photo Credits:
Wikimedia Commons: LEFT: 1916 or earlier, from an engraving
in the possession of Miss Livingstone, Lady Superintendent of the Montreal General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, from a drawing by HMBC published November 28, 1854 by P & D Colnagi in London — with a sketch of her life and an account of her relations to the origin of the Red Cross Society (author, ME Abbott.) RIGHT: circa 1854, author: Kilburn. Both are in the public domain.
Publisher — Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) — has carefully crafted this keepsake to take along, everyday, to reference and to treasure for a long time. Sized to fit slimly into a hand, purse or pocket, I already keep my copy near me to easily remember Nightingale’s thoughts and to ponder the profound continuing connections between her life and mine.
From his 18-year career with the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, UK, Alex brings us his own professional and personal immersion into Nightingale’s texts and archives — along side the wisdom he has gained from meeting so many visitors, from all over the world, who have directly connected this Museum’s exhibits to their own work and lives.
In all these ways, Alex shares how well he knows our own dear ‘Flo’ [as her family often called her] and how he has, himself, witnessed the impact Nightingale has had on the lives of so many. Often using the first person ‘I’ in summary narratives, Alex shares his own personal commitment to Nightingale’s exemplary life — to the nursing practice she so heartily urged us to continue — and to the health of humanity she envisioned.
|Also used by Alex to show Nightingale’s visionary spirit near the end of her life. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, 1916 or earlier, from a watercolor drawing by Miss. F. Alicia De Biden Footner and reproduced in Sir Edward Cook's Life of Florence Nightingale, in the public domain.|
Indeed, Alex opens with ‘Flo’s’ Vision and joins her in asking us —“how do we respond to today’s health challenges?” He closes with ‘Flo’s’ Legacy — her eternal call to make progress in nursing and “make a difference” in our time. True to the essence of ‘Flo’s’ own clear vision for the future, Alex cites one of my favorite quotes as well:
“In the future which I will not see, because I am old, may a better way be opened! May the methods by which every infant, every human being, will have the best chance of health — methods by which every sick person will have the best chance of recovery, be learned and practiced!” [FN, 1893]
Such an essence for a book such as this! From this book, we — and the nurses who will follow us — can see — for ourselves — that we are indeed her living legacy, her dream for the future. This is a book to cherish —to guide, remind, inform and inspire us along our way.
Thanks so much — to STTI, to Alex and to ‘Flo!’ Highly Recommended! Very Affordable! Easily available here!
|Nurses from contemporary Thailand in a Nightingale Candlelighting Ceremony — illustrating the further global significance of Alex Attewell's 'Illuminating Florence: Finding Nightingale's Legacy in Your Practice.' Source of this photo designates that it is 'Copyleft' according to the terms of the Free Art License. Wikimedia Commons, February 23, 2010 from Author: Boyson.|
In 2008 & 2009, Asoka Roy’s family created a Platinum Sponsorship of the Nightingale Declaration Campaign to honor the memory of their sister — a pioneering nurse & midwife in both India & the United States. Projects developed from this contribution included an India-wide outreach of the Nightingale Declaration dedicated to Asoka’s memory.
See: An Indian Nightingale
Generous Support of Drs. Rustum & Della Roy