Nursing Informatics is at the Heart of Nursing

To celebrate Florence Nightingale’s birthday and Nursing Informatics Day, I thought it would be nice to share some of her history and the inception of nursing informatics and some information about an exciting new book detailing her informatics work.

With the focus on data, information, and technology, many people may think that Nursing Informatics is a new profession.

While most people know of Florence Nightingale as the founder of modern nursing, many are likely unaware that she was a statistician and the first informatics nurse.

She was also the first woman fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, joining in 1858.

Last year, Fast Company published a fascinating article titled The untold story of how Florence Nightingale used data viz to save lives. She is described as “a fierce advocate of public health—and she used sophisticated graphic design to make her case.”

Florence’s assimilation and graphical presentation of soldier mortality data were powerful enough to move the queen and Parliament to pressure the military for more sanitary conditions, ultimately saving many lives. This data also helped define the foundation of sanitary conditions in nursing care that have saved countless lives and helped prevent further injury and illness to those receiving treatment.

The article also covers the Information Graphic Visionaries Kickstarter Campaign. The project is a “The collection of three books, edited by [RJ] Andrews, tells the forgotten data-visualization stories of major historical figures. It includes Emma Willard, the 19th-century higher education advocate who created detailed maps; Étienne-Jules Marey, a French scientist who literally wrote the book on data visualization; and Florence Nightingale.”

From the Fast Company article:

Nightingale was a lifelong information designer. As a child, she cataloged her seashell collection, and that was just the beginning. According to data designer RJ Andrews, Nightingale was always recording facts and figures. “She was mathematically literate as a foundation,” Andrews explains. Her ability to compose eye-catching, understandable, and persuasive charts that depicted things such as soldier mortality rates grabbed the attention of the queen and Parliament and pushed officials to require more sanitary treatment conditions, saving lives in the process.

Florence Nightingale - Soldier Mortality Charts
Florence Nightingale’s most famous infographic, comparing causes of mortality for British soldiers in the Crimean War. FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE/PUBLIC DOMAIN

The BBC Documentary, The Beauty of Diagrams, describes the above rose diagram as “one of the most influential diagrams in history.” The episode on Florence Nightingale is available on YouTube. It discusses her history, use of data to improve patient care during the Crimean War, efforts to improve healthcare after the war, and her visionary use of data visualization to make her points.

Florence Nightingale: Information Graphic Visionary

The Nursing Informatics Blog was a backer of the successful Information Graphic Visionaries Kickstarter Campaign. We will be hosting a webinar featuring Information Graphic Visionaries editor RJ Andrews focusing on the Florence Nightingale book in the series in the coming months.

RJ Andrews is an award-winning data storyteller, author, and founder of Info We Trust. He helps organizations solve information problems. He specializes in information graphics: charts, diagrams, and data visualization.

Webinar attendees will have an opportunity to ask RJ questions about the book, his research and will have an opportunity to win a copy of the Florence Nightingale book.

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter below and check periodically with the blog for details on the upcoming webinar.


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