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Florence Nightingale Letters

[Addendum, Florence Nightingale to the nursing staff, January 1, 1878] Nightingale, Florence, 1820-1910 Jan 1, 1878

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 ADDENDUM TO A. LETTER FROM FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE TO FELLOW NURSES JANUARY 1, 1878 PEN [COVERING PAGE:] not FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE hand, stylized handwriting; seems same as in RP 6858 (Private) New Year's Day 1878. Letter fROM MISS NIGhtingale New Year's Day 1878. 7. a.m. My very dear Matron, dear `Home' Sister, dear friends & fellow Nurses all. I give you joy this blessed New Year of your charge & joy to all who are in your charge. May our New Years be many, "happy & glorious." May your `shadows never be less'. Dear comrades let this be really a New Year. A Year of deliverances from all our faults & mistakes: [and, if you knew me, you would know that I need deliverance perhaps more than any one of you, perhaps more than all of you put together: But I don't mean to give in: I mean to reform, please God Almighty, yet: sick old woman as I am: then the promise may be made good even to me that I may be able even "to glory in my infirmities" -- the almost incredible promise that Christ, that God Himself will "work in us".] Let this be a year of pulling our Patients through -- a year of work such as [1] angels might envy: a year of blessings for the sick, of blessings for their Nurses -- the "acceptable year of the Lord" -- for us all. Dear Probationers, tho', as I hope you know, you are always with me & always present in my thoughts: I have not thanked you yet for your very kind `round robin' to me of last May: Thank you again & again, both you who are still with us & you who have already entered on your appointed work to run the (Nursing) race which has been set before you All hail to that promise, -- dear, we may believe to God, -- to strive each & all to keep up & to raise the standard of this Training-School & of Nursing in general, wherever you are. Now hail to the Conqueror, O praise to the Lord. Our life is His Spirit, Our strength is His word. So only can He "work in us" And plenty of Case papers this year, please plenty of proofs that you are interested in your Patients. And oh remember, please, that each one of those Patients -- is a `temple of God' Let us not shame Him in His temple: that each one of those "little ones" has an angel which [2] `beholds the face of our Father in heaven.' Let no bad news of us & our doings with each be brought to our Father. He has given every one of us a post. Let Him find every one of us in it: true to every one of His creatures, as He is Himself true to Him. Every one of us, pray God we remember that! God does not look at us in masses: He looks at each least little woman as if she were the only one in the world. Wycliffe, the great Reformer, said that all (Training) systems, all forms, all rules & Regulations the whole outward & established Institution & System in short [which some of us -- it is whispered, throw in the teeth of some others of us: but I don't believe it.] was good only in as far as each person was good herself or himself. It was worth nothing, without: Without, all fell to the ground [Wycliffe need not have come to tell us this Yet there are many in the world who have not learnt it yet.] I knew a woman who said (& who did it too:) "Be heroic" in your every day's work: your every day's prayers & resolutions. If you can't work up to them quite all at once, at least you can a little nearer & nearer every day. We talk of `rules'. This was her `rule' It was the rule of her life. And if a heroine is one who does great things for the sake of others -- [no conceit, all humility [3] in it: if she thinks herself a heroine, she is none] & if any woman may be a heroine in small things & in daily life -- just as much or almost more than in great things & on grand occasions, surely any Nurse, who has to do every day & to do & to do for others, any Nurse may be a heroine. God expects each one of us Nurses to be "a heroine" that is, to do & be her very best in herself -- in her common work with others -- her common work in the `Home', her common work in the Hospital saving Patients' strength & health & perhaps lives: -- her common work with the others -- Wardmaids & all, in doing their best -- Then, if she does her very best, intending & striving to make it better & better every day, till God raises it to the perfect work, we well may say: that Nurse is a hero in her daily work. And let us each New Year `take stock' as it were of ourselves: Always bring your Nursing to the bar of your own conscience, rather more when Head Nurse, & Doctors are not by to judge it: rather more when you are Head Nurses yourselves: I in my old age do this: do it all your lives: do it with all your might; to day tomorrow & every Year, if you would be good Nurses -- A good Nurse will test her Nursing & learn something to the last day of her Nursing life. Let us each New Year `take stock' of our own selves [4] in this way too: "am I keeping up to the motives that led me to choose this work? or do I look upon it merely as a thing to be got through? Do I still think it a work to which I was called by God Himself? And am I daily pressing forward more & more to do the daily task for the good of others not for habit, self or self's glory -- not merely because others are doing it & we must do it like creatures in harness "Be not like dumb driven cattle: Be a hero in the strife" always remembering that we are forwarding the work when we do it for the work's sake, for others' sake, for God's sake. As sharers in a common work, helping one another -- and hindering the work when we do it each for her own little sake, like a `dog in the manger', or hanging together in little selfish `parties'. To do one's day's work as a part of God's great plan: to be about one's own & one's Father's business -- I give you joy that as Nurses we can always be about our `Father's business' in our own -- what can any one do more? what ought any one to do less? [5] Stick together & to your Matron & to your Home Sister like a bundle of faggots: you know the fable. No pains will be spared to make the Trained Nurses of Britain worthy You spare no pains to answer to the pains. Wish well to every other Trained & Training Nurse in the world. O what a good thing is friendly rivalry! If you stand still, I should wish that every other School should pass you: not that every other School should stand still to let you go ahead. But stick together like a bundle of faggots. And to do this I will tell you a rule in a Society or Company I know: [do you know what that word comes from? it comes from the old Roman custom of a `company' of soldiers under one Commander And what were those soldiers not able to do? they would hold a post till the last man of them had died at it -- each man forgetting himself, each man standing by the others No man saying, `oh this is hard -- [6] These were the men who conquered the world. And not alone among the Romans were such men to be found. Who shall say so? We have our own men, of whom it was written = "Forward the Light Brigade: O the brave charge they made!" And I say: Forward the Light Brigade of St. Thomas: God will back you, if you look to Him, against any "charge" of any day. He loves a brave woman -- a magnanimous heart.] I will tell you the rule of the Company or Society I spoke of: Each to read to herself once a week the verses about `Charity' in the famous Chapter of Corinthians, and 3 or 4 times a day each just to think to herself: "Am I doing like `Charity'? -- if not, I am a tinkling cymbal rather than a Nurse" -- Now, dear comrades, will you make a bargain with me: I will do this till next New Year, (if I live so long: for I am very ill) if you will I will send you the Chapter illuminated, if I may. In past days, the most that was done for a Nurse was to expect from her: -- obedience: she was just told what had to be done & ordered to go & do it. Now the utmost pains [7] are taken to show her why it has to be done & how it is to be done -- [Ought it not to be much easier now to have the spirit of obedience?] This is what is called Training. Training which is given her & experience which she must give herself every day of her life -- (not the experience which practises the blunders of our predecessors --) & which her training shows her how to give herself, go to make the good Nurse. But what must we say of the trained Nurse who is not obedient & tries to teach the Doctors? Let your experience case its light before so as to give light to the path you have to tread now: & not only to the path behind: which as St. Paul says we must leave behind That is a melancholy sort of experience. And don't use your `training' like an Irish `shillelagh', to cudgel other people with. That is no `training', is it? Will you excuse an old, old Hospital Nurse like me who lived before training was so much as thought of for telling the most dangerous flaws in Trained Nurses when they enter upon their appointed places? "Be watchful, be vigilant, Danger may be At an hour when all seemeth securest to thee. {NO PAGE NUMBER} One is: complaining - as if nothing were good enough for us. The other conceit. Compain? What business have we to complain? is that brave? is that making a 'brave charg'? It is so cowardly to complain. 'Who complains, ???' is a proverb - Henry fifth before he fought the Battle of Agincourt with but a handfull of helf-starved men, bade any man who thought it hard and did not want to rough it to go home. "His passport shall be made and crowns of convoy put into his purse." " I would not die in that man's company, who fears his fellowship to die with me." " I would not nurse in that man's company who fears her fellowship to nurse with me." Trained nurses talk sometimes about being Pioneers: yet the first trouble or trial we have, or the first discomfort, or the first check to our vanity, we say "O this is not what I was used to" or "this is not what I expected." [Are we not afraid that God may say one day: this is not what He expected of us]. Or: WE never did so; this is not my place." Or "this is putting upon me" or "this is what I don't like -- Call these women Pioneers: they are not fit to be the baggae-guard, are they? Their talk is all rant & cant. We are the only sounding brass and we talk it. [see note] Conceit: is that brave? - did we ever know a really brave man conceited? Any conceit is not the result of training but of want of capacity for being trained. And when a Trained Nurse is conceited she shows herself untrained. A really great man who lived long, long ago one of the first of Trainers of both Missionaries and of Nurses [his nurses still number some 20,000. I have worked with them myself.] used to say to his Trainers, "You will not win them be saying fine things." [And I add "You will not win them by saying HARD things.] 'Perhaps they know more than we do.' ------------- Note: What would I give to be able to leave my rooms and my present life and be a Hospital Nurse again, under our Matron? -- I promise you she should find me neither complaining nor conceited. But I perceive that in saying this I am doing what I said I should not. So I say: Forward, forward, forward, comrades: You must go forward for me. [Yes, there may be many Nurses, not of us, who know more than we do:] 'or perhaps we can tell them nothing that they have not heard or read before a hundered terms.' but it is What they SEE that trains them. O dear nurses all, by all means let us mind what we say - but still more let us mind what we do. Let other nurses only 'see' in us what they had better do themselves & never what they better avoid. What we wish THEM do let them see US do. Let our Patients - so sharp to see - only see in us, alike in Nurses and Probationers, what will do them good to see. Show that you have "been with Jesus" every day, don't be afraid of seeming "unlearned & ignorant" [I feel every day of my life, tho' perhaps I number as many years of experience as you do of life, how ignorant & unlearned I am]. Do you remember what it says in Acts about Peter's and John's wonderful influence -- & all because of that, tho' they were "unlearned and ignorant", people could SEE they had "been with Jesus"? The best trained Nurse is "unlearned & ignorant."] Show them you have "been with Jesus" every morning & night. There is great temptation in a community of Probationers to be in a hurry. [God is never in a hurry:] to scratch the ground and not dig deep: to do surface-work: like sticking in cut flowers instead pf growing flowers and fruit too from the seed or root. Strike your roots deep, rather than spread you branches too far. Be every day more and more real, honest, thorough Nurses in your Nursing work -- O fie to a carless Nurse, when life or death depends on it. And I will whisper in you ears a little secret: how uncommonly glad I should have been to have had our Home Sister's in my young days! We are on our trial dear young friends: I can tell you that: we are on our trial after 17 years. Whether we win or not depends upon you. Trial is the only thing to prove if we are worth anything. I hail it: Let us take care not to be left behind -- But if we deserve it, I for one shall say I am glad we are left behind. And now, Forward the Light Brigade of St Thomas all over the country. (Not heavy in hand with complaints & conceit and self-seeking: THAT we WON'T be). And don't let us be like the chorus at the play which cries "forward, Forward" every two minutes & never stirs a step. May we all be able to say at the next New Year, may God be able to say at our First New Year in His eternity, "O the brave charge that was made!. May we all be soldiers of God, able to endure hardness & to give to others softness! Your affectionate servant, (and Mother I fain would be) Florence Nightingale The Survivors of the Light Brigade in the Charge of Balaclava have lately sent me their names bound in a book. May all our names be found written in God's book as His own faithful Nurses. fLORENCE NIGHTINGALE 


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