During Nightingale's time, there was no nursing profession. Nursing was done on a voluntary basis by caring but unskilled women. Some who volunteered were nuns, clergymen's wives, soldiers and other women volunteers (some include prostitutes in with these "other" volunteers). Though Nightingale was herself educated in nursing in Kaiserworth, Germany, at a Protestant hospital run by deaconesses, most who nursed were not trained and those nuns and deaconesses who were trained had no professional standing nor a medical understanding of sanitation and cleanliness. It is these principles, of course, that Nightingale introduced into nursing and trained nurses in at her own school. It is Nightingale's insight and contributions that created the profession of nursing, though it did not gain "professional" status for a long while.
Based on the reading I have done about Florence Nightingale, I would not want to have been to a hospital in her day! I do not think they were sanitary or professional places. I think we are indebted to her for introducing professionalism to the nursing profession.
Women were viewed as wives and mothers, as potential wives and mothers, or as failed wives and mothers. (nursingworld.org)
Before she advocated for nursing standards, women were not considered practitioners. Modern nursing opened up a whole new profession for women, one where they began to gain respect. Under Nightingale’s watch, they were trained in medical practices and given scientific information. Many of her methods are still used and taught today.
As I understand it, people really did not tend to think much of nurses back in those days. They sort of saw nursing as something like being a domestic servant. Nurses were not really trained at all. They were not seen as medical personnel in the way that we see them these days. I think this was partly because there was such a lack of medical knowledge. Nightingale was revolutionary for thinking that nurses should help patients have things like clean rooms and pure water. If they had such rudimentary medical knowledge, there wouldn't have been all that much respect for nurses.