By Sara Laub
Upon their arrival, she learned immediately that she had no control over the affairs of the hospital and the sanitary condition was horrifying. The hospital had been converted from an artillery barracks and had insufficient equipment, medicine, cleaning supplies, the food was inapt and the water was contaminated, among other problems. Many trials were endured by Florence as she patiently waited for circumstances to change, and then the hospital dramatically got worse and the doctors were looking for help. They realized Florence was capable and had connections to bring the hospital to order. As soon as she was given a small amount of authority, she immediately bought cleaning supplies, and continued to improve the hospital step by step. Florence became the wounded soldiers’ favorite because she did everything in her power to give them the care they needed, and spent endless hours at their bedsides. She even helped them receive better pay as a wounded soldier by contacting Queen Victoria and making her aware of the situation. Flo knew the hospital was improving but it was still not up to sanitary conditions, and was glad to see the sanitary commission from England come and investigate the soldiers’ hospitals. They were shocked at the unsanitary condition and found dead animals in the water supply, and gases coming from the privies that left the soldiers beds fatal that were next to them, among many other problems. These problems were corrected, and Flo was encouraged by the progress but ended up leaving Scutari to go to the other hospitals, since the doctors continued to make matters complicated for her authority. She ended up sick and forced to lay in bed for a time, but was immediately back at work when she was able and continued her service until the last soldier checked out of the hospital at the end of the war.
As she returned to England, she was a hero to many and to others she was a criminal. Rumors had spread that she had stolen from the soldiers and other ridiculous accusations were made. She was especially not happy that she was famous, since she knew it would hinder her work in making nursing an acceptable profession for women. After an investigation, they found that Florence had been the hero and not the criminal, and she had started making a higher standard for health care.
Florence continued to work to make health care better for the nation and did most of her work through other people. There were many personal visits Flo had with Queen Victoria and other high esteemed people. She wanted to make sure that the soldiers’ hospitals would be up to standard and went through years of writing letters, proposals and pamphlets, just to have most of them rejected or forgotten. There were successes, but Florence did not recover from her failures and became obsessed with them. She became ill many times and then became an invalid. This did not stop her work, she even helped India create an adequate health care system through letters. She would not let up on her goal to create a place in the world for women nurses, and she designed and opened the Nightingale Training School. She wrote many books and notes to continue the cause of nursing and helped a man organize a hospital he was sponsoring.
Florence did return home to her family, since her parents were old and needed assistance. She became closer to them through this experience and ended up reconciling with them. This was a healing for Florence and she became a different person, as she was able to look past her failures and she was also able to have better relationships with family and friends. Over the next 30 years Florence continued working on hospital reform but at age 79 she was slowly going blind. She continued to have visits with her family and friends, but only received them one at a time. She ended up dying at age 90 when she laid down for a nap around noon. Her tombstone only says "F.N. Born 1820. Died 1910." at her request.