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Florence Nightingale in Scutari - Info for Kids

Updated: Jan 25

Florence Nightingale, a nurse in the 19th century, became famous for her work in a hospital in Scutari during the Crimean War. But just what did she do that made her so famous?

An ambulance transporting the wounded in the Crimean War. Courtesy Wellcome Collection gallery.

What Was The The Crimean War?

In October 1853, Britain went to war. This war was fought against the Russian Empire who were trying to control parts of Turkey's Empire (known as the Ottoman Empire). Britain fought alongside France, Sardinia and Turkey against Russia.

During the war, thousands of British soldiers were sent over to Crimea to fight. The battles were tough and many soldiers were injured. There were no hospitals for the injured soldiers near the battlefront in Crimea. Instead they were sent over 300 miles across the Black Sea into Turkey where Army Barracks had been converted into hospitals to treat the injured.

Transporting wounded soldiers by boat. Courtesy Wellcome Collection Gallery.

So Where Does Florence Come Into It?

At the time when the Crimean War began, Florence was working as a nurse in London. She was doing such good work at her new job that she had been promoted within her first year of working there.

In late 1854, Florence received a message from her friend and the government Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert. In this message, Sidney explained to Florence that conditions in the army hospitals were terrible. He had heard about Florence's fantastic nursing work and wanted her to take a team of 38 nurses to Turkey to help out.

The Scutari Hospital on Florence's Arrival. Courtesy Wellcome Collection Gallery.

What Was The Scutari Hospital Like When Florence Arrived?

Florence and her 38 nurses went to an army hospital in Scutari, Turkey. Florence and her team were shocked by what they found when they arrived:

  • The hospital was over-crowded – it wasn’t designed for the thousands of injured soldiers that had been placed there.

  • The hospital was unclean and blocked drains meant the floor was covered in poo.

  • There wasn’t enough medicine or medical equipment, such as bandages, for the Doctors & Nurses to treat the soldier’s injuries.

  • There were no blankets and not enough beds - patients had to sleep on the unclean floor in overcrowded rooms.

  • There was no food for the soldiers to eat.

  • The hospital was built on top of a cesspool which contaminated the water, so there was no fresh water to drink.

  • There wasn’t enough medical staff to treat all of the patients.

  • There were lice and rats living in the hospital.

  • More soldiers died from infection because of the dirty hospital than from their actual war injuries.

At first the army doctors didn’t want Florence and her nurses to help. Nurses had a bad reputation during this time and were generally not well trained. Florence knew that she had to do a very good job to impress them.

The new style of army hospital. Courtesy Wellcome Collection Gallery.

What Was The Scutari Hospital Like After Florence Had Finished?

Florence and her nurses immediately went to work to improve the hospital:

  • Florence received gifts and funds from home to pay for better medical equipment, medicine and food.

  • She set up a hospital kitchen serving nice food for the patients.

  • Florence and her nurses cleaned the hospital from floor to ceiling, cleared it of vermin and got a team to clear the drains.

  • She provided better sleeping conditions with beds spaced apart to prevent the spread of infection and blankets to keep the patients warm.

  • She let clean air into the hospital.

  • She introduced strict hygiene rules – patients were bathed and their bedding was washed regularly.

  • She gave the soldiers a high quality of care and even wrote letters home for them when they couldn’t do it themselves.

  • She even set up a classroom and library so that more able-bodied patients could have books and entertainment.

Florence's work in the Scutari hospital reduced the death-rate of the injured soldiers by two-thirds.

The Lady With The Lamp. Courtesy Wellcome Collection Gallery.

Why Did They Call Florence The Lady With The Lamp?

Florence's care for the injured soldiers at the Scutari hospital was limitless. She even attended the patients at night to reassure and comfort them. The hospital had no electric lighting and was pitch black in the night time. To visit the patients, Florence walked the wards with a lamp to light her way. The injured soldiers were so touched by her care and dedication that they began calling her "The Lady With The Lamp". Others called her "The Angel of Crimea".

What Happened After the War Ended?

Florence stayed in Scutari for a year and a half. Shortly after the war, Florence wrote an 830-page report based on what she experienced at the hospital in Scutari. Florence met with Queen Victoria, who was so shocked by what Florence had found on her arrival in Scutari, that she agreed to set up the Royal Establishment for the Health of the Army. This new department, along with Florence's knowledge and guidance, changed how army hospitals worked, improved sanitary conditions and helped to save the lives of millions of soldiers.


Are you a teacher? Yes? Then you'll definitely want Imagining History to bring their "Florence Nightingale" KS1 Interactive workshop to your school.

Our Award-Winning sessions combine role-play, storytelling, demonstrations and drama and performance to bring history to life for your students.

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