Florence Nightingale effect

The Florence Nightingale effect is a situation where a caregiver develops romantic and/or sexual feelings for his/her patient, even if very little communication or contact takes place outside of basic care.[1] Feelings may fade once the patient is no longer in need of care, either by recovery or death.


The effect is named for Florence Nightingale, a pioneer in the field of nursing in the second half of the 19th century. Due to her dedication to patient care, she was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" because of her habit of making rounds at night, previously not done. Her care would forever change the way hospitals treated patients. Most consider Nightingale the founder of modern nursing. There is no record of Florence Nightingale having ever fallen in love with one of her patients. In fact, despite multiple suitors, she never married for fear it might interfere with her calling for nursing. Albert Finney referred to the effect as the "Florence Nightingale syndrome" in a 1982 interview,[2] and that phrase was used earlier to refer to health workers pursuing non-tangible rewards in their careers.[3]


Florence Nightingale effect and Florence Nightingale syndrome are often considered to be the same thing. However, the latter typically refers to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, from which Nightingale was said to have suffered. During the last years of her life, she suffered symptoms not unlike those of CFS.[4]

Florence Nightingale effect is not recognized as a medical condition; rather, it is a pop-culture name given to a situation. It is generally considered unprofessional in the medical industry for a care giver to become involved with a patient.


Many often misunderstand the term to mean the opposite; that is, a patient falling in love with the caregiver as a result of interpreting an amiable bedside manner as affection. The correct term, coined by Sigmund Freud, for this situation is transference.


  1. Wright, Robert F (2002). "A Review of the Four Prominent Marketing Schools of Thought". Journal of Advertising History.
  2. Judy Bachrach (June 21, 1982). "Albert Finney". People. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  3. David Woods (October 19, 1974). "Unions moving into MD offices and clinics" (PDF). Canandian Medical Association Journal. 111 (8): 864. PMC 1947902Freely accessible. PMID 4422568. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  4. "Nightingale Research Foundation"
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