Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Flo?

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


May 05, 2020

Figure 1. Florence Nightingale, from a photograph taken around 1850 by H. Lenthall, London, reimagined. Original image courtesy of Wikipedia

May 12 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

If Nightingale were alive today, she would probably say, "What have you done to my photograph?" But after taking a look around at what's happening in the world, her next words might very well be, "I told you so."

In a move that foreshadowed social distancing, Florence Nightingale was first to recommend separating patients by at least 6 feet—a distance that prevented them from being able to touch each other.

And even before germ theory was widely accepted, Nightingale urged what is now our biggest weapon against viral transmission. In 1859, she wrote in Notes on Nursing: "Every nurse ought to wash her hands very frequently throughout the day." In an era when few effective drugs or other treatments were available, cleanliness and hygiene were, in her view, fundamental to the care of the sick.

She understood the risk to nurses' health posed by the care of infected patients. Observing that the mortality rate of hospital nurses was higher than that of the general population, Nightingale advocated strongly for protecting these nurses from fever and contagion. "Money cannot replace...the loss of a well-trained nurse by preventable disease," she wrote in her Notes on Hospitals (1863).

This year in London, a large temporary hospital erected for the care of overflow COVID-19 patients was named for Nightingale, a move that was seen as fitting considering Nightingale's legacy as a data science pioneer. Her use of statistics and data to track outbreaks of disease and help hospitals manage their resources was prescient in light of the work being done by hospital epidemiologists to tackle the public health challenge that we face today.

How much do you know about Flo? It's a great time to learn more about this remarkable woman. Take our quiz and compare your answers with those of your colleagues.


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