Visualisation & Statistics by Florence

Florence_NightingaleLet us not get embroiled in Florence’s aversion to nursing being recognised as an accredited profession. Instead let us celebrate one of her finer contributions to nursing, namely statistics. Evidence based practice is part of our mantra in nursing, yet if we reflect on our specialty areas and ask ourselves, “how much of what we do in our daily practice is evidence based?” I wonder what our answer would be?

Florence is a role model, she was involved in the early development of statistical representations to change the status quo in health governance, and use the information for the purpose of clinical practice developments. There are many areas in today’s healthcare setting that could benefit from increased nursing scope of practice and highly trained nurses such as in health prevention and chronic illness management where a specialist nurse could perform at or above the level of a doctor (more nurse practitioners please!). Florence would measure and provide data to support this notion.

This post was inspired after international nurse’s day on 12th May (Florence’s birth date) and taking time to reflect on what this day means to nursing from a retrospective and prospective look into nursing. Long gone is the handmaiden role but nursing must ensure we are central in the ‘big data’ revolution to contribute to policy and health changes. Mortality, quality data, reports and audits are part of Florence’s legacy to take us into the future.  Accurate record keeping, standardisation, infection control and co-ordination of healthcare are still as relevant today.

Engagement and making data simpler to understand was another of Florence’s skills. Visualisation like using pie charts enabled Florence to convey the data results in simpler form to increase the impact factor when presenting research findings to administrators, healthcare professionals and politicians.

“Florence’s use of data is so clear, it is impossible to ignore”

Video Resources

Florence Nightingale: Joy of Stats

Florence Nightingale: Pie charts & the Lady with the Lamp


Maindonald, J., & Richardson, A. M. (2004). This passionate study: A dialogue with Florence Nightingale. Journal of Statistics Education, 12(1), 1-4.

McDonald, L. (2001). Florence Nightingale and the early origins of evidence-based nursing. Evidence based nursing, 4(3), 68-69.

Neuhauser, D. (2003). Florence Nightingale gets no respect: as a statistician that is. Quality and Safety in Health Care, 12(4), 317-317.