Our 20 Favorite Florence Nightingale Quotes

20 times Florence Nightingale spoke the absolute truth when it comes to nursing, ethics, and life in general.

Our 20 Favorite Florence Nightingale ...

Widely considered the single most influential nurse in history, Florence Nightingale truly was a pioneer and founder of modern nursing. She epitomized everything nurses stand for – someone who dedicated her life to helping those in need. Day and night, she went out of her way to ensure that her patients were taken care of. She sacrificed any personal time she had to improve the lives of countless men and women, yet she still aspired for more.

She wasn’t satisfied with merely saving the lives of those on her floor. Her personal experience allowed her to understand the raw power and untapped potential of nursing, and she was determined to fight for it. She knew that improving working conditions and giving nurses the respect they deserve would greatly increase the overall ability of a hospital to successfully treat its patients.

Through her book, Notes on Nursing, Nightingale took it upon herself to bring attention to the changes that needed to be made. Little did she know, her words would spark a nursing revolution and pave the way for the profession to become what it is today. These words, despite the fact that they were all spoken or written well over 100 years ago, still ring true today.

Here are 20 of our favorite Florence Nightingale quotes:

“I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse.”

“Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better.”

“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”

“Rather, ten times, die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.”

“The world is put back by the death of everyone who has to sacrifice the development of his or her peculiar gifts to conventionality.”

“The very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm.”

“So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.”

“Instead of wishing to see more doctors made by women joining what there are, I wish to see as few doctors, either male or female, as possible. For, mark you, the women have made no improvement they have only tried to be 'men' and they have only succeeded in being third-rate men.”

“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.”

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

“Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in her head (not, how can I always do this right thing myself, but) how can I provide for this right thing to be always done?”

“Live your life while you have it. Life is a splendid gift. There is nothing small in it. For the greatest things grow by God's Law out of the smallest. But to live your life you must discipline it. You must not fritter it away in 'fair purpose, erring act, inconstant will' but make your thoughts, your acts, all work to the same end and that end, not self but God. That is what we call character.”

“No man, not even a doctor, ever gives any other definition of what a nurse should be than this – ‘devoted and obedient’. This definition would do just as well for a porter. It might even do for a horse. It would not do for a policeman.”

“Mankind must make heaven before we can 'go to heaven' (as the phrase is), in this world as in any other.”

“I did not think of going to give myself a position, but for the sake of common humanity.”

“It is often thought that medicine is the curative process. It is no such thing; medicine is the surgery of functions, as surgery proper is that of limbs and organs. Neither can do anything but remove obstructions; neither can cure; nature alone cures. Surgery removes the bullet out of the limb, which is an obstruction to cure, but nature heals the wound. So it is with medicine; the function of an organ becomes obstructed; medicine, so far as we know, assists nature to remove the obstruction, but does nothing more. And what nursing has to do in either case, is to put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.”

“If a nurse declines to do these kinds of things for her patient, 'because it is not her business,' I should say that nursing was not her calling. I have seen surgical 'sisters,' women whose hands were worth to them two or three guineas a-week, down upon their knees scouring a room or hut because they thought it otherwise not fit for their patients to go into. I am far from wishing nurses to scour. It is a waste of power. But I do say that these women had the true nurse-calling—the good of their sick first, and second only the consideration what it was their 'place' to do—and that women who wait for the housemaid to do this, or for the charwoman to do that when their patients are suffering, have not the making of a nurse in them.”

“Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses. We must be learning all of our lives.”

“Nursing is an art: and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation as any painter's or sculptor's work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God's spirit? It is one of the Fine Arts: I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.”

“Nursing is a progressive art such that to stand still is to go backward.”

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