Turkey’s Lady With The Lamp Honoured At Istanbul Conference
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has awarded its prestigious biennial Florence Nightingale Medal to the woman regarded as the doyenne of Turkish nursing, Leman Birol, who says she tried to model her own career on The Lady with the Lamp of the Crimean War (1854–1866).
The medal, nursing’s highest honour, is given to members or helpers of a Red Cross or Red Crescent National Society who have distinguished themselves in peace or war by “exceptional courage and devotion to the wounded, sick or disabled” or by other exemplary work in public health or nursing education.
Birol received her award at the opening of the VII European Regional Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference from Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Mehmet Ali Sahin, and ICRC president, Jakob Kellenberger, in the city that played a pivotal role in the history of nursing: Istanbul.
Leman Birol graduated there from the Turkish Red Crescent Private Nursing School, the country’s first, in 1953. Almost exactly a century earlier, in November 1854, Florence Nightingale arrived at the Selimiye barracks in Üsküdar, a suburb of Istanbul, where she and her nurses found wounded soldiers being treated in terrible conditions amidst official indifference.
“When I was a nursing student, I went to Selimiye barracks,” said Birol, who described herself as “happy and excited” to get the medal. “I had a chance to read notes written by Nightingale. It is so fortunate that she established this profession.”
Birol, like Nightingale herself, has devoted her career to professionalizing nursing. She is a former head of the Turkish Nurses Society and a co-founder of the Turkish Oncological Nurses Society. The author of five books and dozens of articles in scientific journals, Birol is a co-founder of the Ege University Nursing Higher School – the most modern in the country, and a former head of the International Federation’s Nursing Advisory Board.
Born in 1931 at Samsun, on the Black Sea coast of northern Turkey, Leman Birol is one of the millions of women who have responded to Florence Nightingale’s example, caring for patients in extremis, protecting human dignity, and tirelessly devoting themselves to their profession.
After graduation, Birol worked as a nurse and was eventually head nurse at a specialist TB hospital. She attended Toronto University with a scholarship from the Canadian Red Cross, and took courses in nursing in disasters, first aid and home nursing with a further scholarship from the American Red Cross.
By now well known both at home and abroad, Birol became director of the Red Crescent nursing school before advanced training at the University of Boston and Hacettepe University in the Turkish capital, Ankara, where she obtained a full professorship in 1986.
Turkey is regarded by many historians as, through the work of Florence Nightingale, the birthplace of modern nursing. Still so revered there is the Victorian heroine that the first nursing faculty in Turkey, at Ege University, opened in 1961, was named after her, as are a hospital and a museum of nursing in Istanbul.
Many people attending the medal ceremony in Istanbul said it was now time for Leman Birol to give her name to a hospital in the city.
Turkey’s Lady With The Lamp Honoured At Istanbul Conference "