Following in Florence Nightingale’s Footsteps – Literally!

On the Road with Sue Hassmiller as she traces the work of the legendary Florence Nightingale . . .

On her upcoming summer vacation, Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Senior Advisor for Nursing, will be pursuing a dream to learn more about the life and work of the legendary Florence Nightingale. She’ll be traveling through Europe on a special tour developed in honor of the centennial of Nightingale’s death. In this and upcoming blog posts, Hassmiller reports on her trip, what she learns, and what it means to nurses’ work today. (Addendum: click here for the full series of posts.)

Sue Hassmiller, ready to blog

Eighteen years old and “hot to trot.” That’s what I thought I was. Having just been admitted into nursing school, I was set to change the world…one patient at a time. They tried to teach me about Florence Nightingale, but she was someone from the past…not likely to help me learn to start IVs, put in catheters, or run ventilators. If there were iPods back then, I would have used mine to avoid lessons about how Florence Nightingale changed the face of nursing forever. What an exaggeration, I thought! There was nothing to be learned from her…so I tuned out every last bit of it. 

But that was then…and here I am now, in awe of one of the most remarkable human beings who ever lived. What prompted me, all these years later, to embark on a total Florence Nightingale immersion? And instead of using my iPod to tune out, I’m using every form of technology I can to learn more about her. What did it take for me to want to spend my precious time learning more about this remarkable woman? A couple of things…

All roads lead to Florence. First, I’m currently Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine. Here I go again, trying to get to the future…only this time I’m not 18, I’m older and a bit wiser. I no longer think I’m hot to trot, and I know that to look into the future you must first delve into and learn from the past. And with that perspective, all roads lead back to Florence Nightingale. Sure, there were other women (and now men) who did a lot to improve the practice of nursing…but none as comprehensively as Ms. Nightingale. 

Now I’m about to leave on a very special Florence Nightingale “study tour” to London, Embley Park, England (Nightingale’s childhood home) and Turkey. I don’t want to embarrass myself by not knowing the basics of her vast accomplishments. After all, I will be traveling with people who view themselves as Florence Nightingale “scholars.” It’s a bit intimidating for someone who is merely a beginning student.

I plan to blog as I go on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, so I hope you’ll check back for more reports from the road.

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2016-11-21T13:16:49+00:00 July 9th, 2010|nursing history|24 Comments

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  1. John Welton July 16, 2010 at 7:39 am

    Sue, many thanks for sharing your travels and thoughts. Perhaps Florence can still teach us about our future as we implement health care reform and consider the future of nursing!

  2. Shirley Chater July 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Sue,You’ll take me back to my year in London at St. Bart’s Hospital. I’m eager to travel with you in spirit and be brought up-to-date on Nightengale thinking and doing. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experiences along the way.

  3. Mary Dickow July 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Thank you for taking us along on your journey – I am looking forward to “traveling” with you!

  4. Jeanette Lancaster July 13, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Sue: Enjoy every moment and every experience and thank you for your generous sharing with your friends who are not making the same historic trip. Jeanette Lancaster

  5. Julie Fairman July 13, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Well deserved, Sue! Hope you didn’t carry that big Nightingale bio with you. Enjoy your trip.

  6. Maribel Cifuentes July 12, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    This is so cool. Sue, I’m so glad that I’ll get to learn more about Florence through your experience on this tour. Fantastic idea to start this blog. I’ll be checking in to see what you’re up to.

  7. […] the Charts American Journal of Nursing blog « Following in Florence Nightingale’s Footsteps – Literally! The Nightingale Immersion Experience July 12, 2010 Susan Hassmiller, the Robert Wood […]

  8. Lori Ballard July 12, 2010 at 8:11 am

    Always an inspiration. What a wonderful opportunity to learn and create memories. Have the time of your life. Lori

  9. Cheryl July 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    What a great experience! I’m envious of all you will get to see and learn. Tell dr. Bob we expect a recap in Anaheim.

  10. Jennie Chin Hansen July 11, 2010 at 6:21 am

    As others have said, I look forward to my vicarious learning from you. How wonderful you also do this on this very special memorial year of her birthday.


  11. Kathy Meyer July 10, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Dear Sue
    Your big adventure is great timing for me…I just started an MSN program at Drexel and I got reacquainted with Florence Nightingale here in my first course, remarkable what she was able to accomplish way back then…like you, I had no recollection of learning about her back in my undergrad days, got my BSN from Duquesne back in 1978!! I look forward to following your footsteps in getting reacquainted with her remarkable accomplishments….100 years later!

  12. Jan Bellack July 9, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Sue – What an incredible opportunity! The Nightingale museum in London is fabulous and how wonderful that you’re also going to her home (have you read THE NIGHTINGALES – a biographical portrayal of her and her family’s history?) AND to Turkey. Thank you for inviting all of us along to journey with you vicariously – what a treat! I hope you enjoy and savor every moment. Jan

  13. Nancy Ridenour July 9, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Wishing you the joy and inspiration of following in the footsteps of greatness. Letters from Egypt was very inspiring to me!

  14. Linda Burnes Bolton July 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I can’t wait to hear about your journey! Enjoy and relax. lbb

  15. Nancy Costa July 9, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Sue – enjoy this journey, a truly once in a life time experience. We are looking forward to “sharing this experience with you” through your blog…

  16. Amy Berman July 9, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing this remarkable journey with us. I am very excited for you and appreciative that you will be blogging during the trip. Now don’t forget to wash your hands.
    Safe travels!

  17. Simone Champagnie July 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    This is so very exciting! You can count on me to follow you as you follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale.

  18. Beth Blazek July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Looking forward to following your Florence Nightingale adventures! Safe travels and have fun!

  19. Sarah Mertz July 9, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Sue, How I admire your drive to pursue your dreams. I look forward to hearing how your adventure unfolds!

  20. Vvian Littlefield July 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Wonderful trip and great learning. I had my picture made by Florence’s statue many years ago. A thrill! Will have to find that. Look forward to hearing about your experiences and insights.

  21. Michael Bleich July 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Oh, how fun to live this trip vicariously through you! HAVE FUN and immerse – you will soak up all the ‘scholarliness’ along the way – being in FN’s “places.” What a GREAT way to learn!

  22. Karen July 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I find this to be a fascinating and well-deserved trip. Can’t wait to follow your postings! Best! K.

  23. Mattie Schmitt July 9, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Wonderful travels and learning to you, Sue. Looking forward to all you will have to share! Mattie Schmitt

  24. Linda Cronenwett July 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

    Fantastic idea, Sue! Have a great time, and thanks for sharing what you learn along the way.

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