Beyond Nightingale

Nursing on the Crimean War battlefields

This book is a study of nursing in the five Crimean War armies. It sets military nursing into the wider transnational context, and studies the political and economic as well as the cultural and military factors which impacted the early development of modern nursing. In the Ottoman army there was no nursing corps as such, so doctors gave whatever nursing care their soldiers received. In the other four armies three systems of nursing developed: government-directed, doctor-directed, and religious sisterhood-directed. Government-directed nursing, the system in which Nightingale worked, was the most difficult to apply and placed the most constraints on the nursing superintendent. Religious sisters were highly successful, as were the trained French and Sardinian soldier nurses who reported to them, but the most innovative and productive military nursing developed in a doctor-directed nursing service, that of the Russians. There the director of nursing was a brilliant, internationally renowned Russian surgeon, Nikolai Ivanovitch Pirogov. As well as giving his nurses a wide scope of practice, he placed them in charge of hospital administration. Nursing under direct fire for most of the siege of Sevastopol, the Russian nurses met the challenges brilliantly. The book concludes that French and Sardinian soldier nurses, the Daughters of Charity, and Russian nurses provided the best nursing because they worked on the battlefields where they could save the most lives, while British nurses remained confined in base hospitals.

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