CalmWave Blog

Florence Nightingale: The First Disruptor in Nursing?

By: Peggy Pilon, BSN, MS, RN  VP of Clinical Success


Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy. Although her parents were from England, she was born in Italy while they were traveling. Her parents named her after the city where she was born.  Florence did not dream of becoming a nurse in her earlier years, however, at 16 years old she had a religious awakening and became convinced that her destiny was “to do God’s work.” This was a pivotal experience for her and it is when she decided to become a nurse. Her wealthy parents were opposed to her decision because nursing was regarded as disreputable, menial and suitable only for lower-class women.  They also wanted her to marry and have a family. Nightingale refused the idea of marriage and pursued her calling to become a nurse. This of course was unconventional and disruptive to the societal norms of her day. Florence, however, was not deterred and attended the prestigious Kaiserswerth Nursing School in Germany and went on to Paris for extra training with the Sisters of Mercy.

Nightingale’s Early Innovations for Healthcare


During Florence’s early nursing career, she cared for prostitutes and society’s disadvantaged” during a cholera epidemic. By doing this type of nursing, she was one of the first healthcare workers to demonstrate that all human beings have a right to professional healthcare. 

When the Crimean War began in 1854, the British were unprepared to deal with the volume of wounded soldiers, the lack of medical supplies, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions that were happening at the frontlines in Turkey. There were more British soldiers dying from infections such as gangrene, dysentery and cholera than their battle wounds.The British Secretary of War, Sidney Herbert asked Nightingale to manage a group of nurses that would go to Turkey to treat the wounded soldiers. Nightingale and 38 nurses arrived at the British camp outside of Constantinople, where they were unwelcome by the doctors because they refused to work with female nurses. Florence Nightingale and her nurses pushed on and provided individual care and support to the soldiers. They brought supplies, nutritious food, cleanliness, and sanitation to the military hospital.  Her revolutionary approach challenged the conventional medical practices of the time. Nightingale was known by the soldiers as the “Lady with the Lamp” because she would check on the soldiers at night and instituted the innovative concept of around the clock nursing care. 

Florence used her knowledge of math and statistics and documented the mortality rate of the soldiers in the military hospital. She was the first to show statistically that 600 out of every 1000 injured soldiers died due to communicable and infectious diseases. Nightingale and her team transformed the hospital with their innovative nursing interventions which led to a substantial reduction in these preventable deaths. After only 6 months, the soldier’s death rate decreased from 60 percent to 2 percent

Florence challenged the gender norms of her day and was a leader for gender equality because she dared to enter and improve the male-dominated healthcare field that was led by doctors. She continues to be recognized as the nurse leader who revolutionized nursing by collecting and using data, introducing hygiene practices that reduced mortality rates and providing reports to governmental leaders about changes required to improve military and civilian health care.


Florence Nightingale’s data-driven approach to healthcare, even today, distinguishes her as a disrupter. She meticulously collected and analyzed data on patient outcomes, mortality rates, and sanitation conditions. Her “Notes on Nursing” is a seminal work that emphasizes the importance of evidence-based practice. This pioneering use of data laid the foundation for modern healthcare statistics and epidemiology. In the book “Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer” by Barbara Dossey and Lynn Keegan, Nightingale’s adept use of data is credited for shaping the field of nursing research. Due to her use and understanding of statistics and data, in 1858, she became the first woman to be made a Fellow in the Royal Statistical Society.


Nightingale’s Innovative Vision for the Future


Florence Nightingale knew that she was making vital contributions to healthcare and her innovative work must be continued. She advocated for formal education and training for nurses, raising the standards of nursing and launching the concept of professional nursing. In 1860, Nightingale established the Nightingale Training School for Nurses which marked a significant step in professionalizing nursing. This is why Florence Nightingale is widely considered the “Mother of Nursing” today.


Innovation: It Was Present at the Beginning of Nursing


It is clear that Florence Nightingale was a disruptor with her innovative thinking, her data-based approach to problem solving, her ability to challenge established norms and her relentless pursuit of improving patient care and healthcare. The whole foundation of professional nursing was started by a woman that was not concerned about the status quo or the nay-sayers that say “but we have always done it like this” or “…it can’t be done.” I believe if she were alive today, she would challenge us to use all the tools available to make healthcare better, as she did. I believe she would tell us to get involved and test AI based technologies, collaborate and collect the data for ourselves to see if these technologies improve patient care. Her legacy shows us that anything short of this, is merely sitting on the sidelines.


CalmWave:  A vision in common with Florence


We at CalmWave are up for the challenge. We, like Florence Nightingale, see problems in healthcare that we know are unacceptable. Alarm fatigue, along with other factors, are contributing to nurses burning out and these nurses are leaving the profession in large numbers.  We know that the huge number of bedside alarms make it difficult for patients to sleep, heal and contribute to ICU delirium. If Ms. Nightingale was here in healthcare today, she would tell us…”you can do better.”

CalmWave implements Transparent AI solutions with clinical expertise as a priority. CalmWave™ is an operations-based artificial intelligence (AI) platform that captures, analyzes, and synthesizes real-time data from dozens of data sources (monitors, labs, orders, findings, etc.) to empower hospitals with the intelligence critical to improving patient outcomes, optimizing operations, and retaining staff. The AI technology from CalmWave™ presents objective solutions that reduce non-actionable alarms by providing proper alarm management insight to the caregiver, thereby decreasing alarm fatigue, excessive cognitive load, and burnout. At CalmWave, we are interested in supporting clinician workflow so they spend less time chasing non-actionable alarms, and more time caring for patients. 

At CalmWave, we are data-driven, patient-focused and clinician-centric. Florence Nightingale made it safe to be a “disruptor”…after all, she has shown us that one needs to be a disruptor to be innovative. Florence Nightingale would be proud of our work…come join us on this innovative journey!

Recent Articles:

Subscribe to Our Newsletter:

Learn More About CalmWave: