The International Council of Nurses, a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations, has celebrated International Nurses Day since 1965 - it is celebrated each year on May 12th as it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.
Each year on May 12th, a special service is held in Westminster Abbey in London. During the service, a symbolic lamp is taken from the Nurses' Chapel in the Abbey and handed from one nurse to another, and then up to the Dean, who places it on the High Altar. This signifies the passing of knowledge from one nurse to another and is also a nod to Florence Nightingale's nickname, "The Lady with the Lamp".
At St Margaret's Church at East Wellow in Hampshire, where Florence Nightingale is buried, a special service is also held on the Sunday after her birthday.
Florence Nightingale is considered by many to be the founder of modern nursing -- although times have changed since her work, she is still considered a nursing icon throughout the world.
She became well known for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was nicknamed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night.
Her major contribution to professional nursing was the establishment, in 1860, of her nursing school at St Thomas' Hospital in London -- the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King's College London. She was also gifted in mathematics -- in 1859 Nightingale was elected the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society and she later became an honorary member of the American Statistical Association.
Florence Nightingale was born to a wealthy Italian family on May 12th, 1820. Inspired by what she took as a call from God, Florence announced her decision to enter nursing in 1844, despite the intense anger and distress of her mother and sister. In this, she rebelled against the expected role for a woman of her status, which was to become a wife and mother.
Florence Nightingale passed away on August 13th 1910, at the age of 90. The British government honoured her by offering to inter her at Westminster Abbey, but her family chose to have her laid to rest at the family parish - St Margaret's Church at East Wellow in Hampshire.
For nearly a hundred years, nurses throughout the world took a pledge when they graduated nursing school that was named in honour of Florence Nightingale - The Nightingale Pledge:
I solemnly pledge myself before God and presence of this assembly;
To pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully.
I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.
I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.
With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.
This pledge has been largely abandoned (or at least modified) in the modern world.