Alice Fisher lived a life dedicated to the nursing profession and her patients. Known for her incredible standardization of care, she was a pioneer for nursing reform. Trained and mentored by Florence Nightingale, she left her home in England to bring her processes and compassion to the United States.
While information about Alice Fisher is scant, she made an impressive impact on those who knew her and on what the future of nursing would become, worldwide. Below is her full obituary as written in The British Medical Journal, June 23, 1888, pages 1364-1365:
Many members of the profession will have heard with deep regret of the death of Miss Alice Fisher, which occurred on June 3rd, at the Philadelphia Hospital, U.S.A., of which institution she had been for nearly four years Lady Superintendent of Nurses.
Miss Fisher entered the Nightingale Home, St. Thomas’s Hospital, as a probationer, in January, l875, and after a year’s training was sent as home sister to take temporary charge of the nurses at the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh.
In the following year Miss Fisher was appointed matron of the Fever Hospital, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and held that post until her election in 1878 as matron of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. There she remained four years, during which time the nursing of the hospital was completely remodeled, a training school established, and nurses supplied to the members of the University and residents in the town. The advantages, alike to the hospital, the nurses, and the public which followed the adoption of the latter plan, were so great that it has been indirectly the cause of the foundation of institutes for the supply of nurses to the public in connection with many of the metropolitan hospitals.
Feeling that her special work at Addenbrooke’s was done, and that the system which she had introduced could well be carried on by others, Miss Fisher accepted an invitation from the governors of the Radcliffe Infirmary, at Oxford, and subsequently another from the committee of the Birmingham General hospital to take charge of the nursing departments there.
At both places the same untiring energy, which was one of her chief characteristics, led to important improvements being effected in the system of nursing.
In October 1884, Miss Fisher left England to undertake the duties of superintendent of nurses at the Philadelphia Hospital. In America, owing to the greater publicity of official life in any sphere, Miss Fisher’s work soon attracted general attention. This was at first due to her calmness and heroism in saving the lives of many of the inmates of the lunatic wing of the hospital during a fire which occurred shortly after her arrival there.
Subsequently she succeeded, as she had previously done at Cambridge, in interesting all classes in the work of the hospital, which became almost a popular resort with the ladies of Philadelphia, who attended her lectures on nursing in large numbers. In the few years she was there a large training-school for nurses sprang up, and an impetus was given to the improvement of nursing which has been felt almost throughout the United States. The American papers were enthusiastic in her praise, and she received applications from all parts for admission to the nursing home.
In the midst of her work she has been cut off by death, due to an affection of the heart which had troubled her for some time, and for which, as one of her physicians said, ” she had worn out all power of compensation by overwork.” Her interest in the hospital was maintained to the last, and when too ill to walk, she was wheeled through the wards in a Bath chair. Miss Fishier was in many respects a remarkable woman; of commanding presence, sympathetic in manner, widely read, especially in the best English literature, and herself the author of several works of fiction showing much insight into human motives. She exercised a great influence for good over all with whom she was brought into contact. As a hospital administrator she had few equals, and every institution with which she was connected still bears evidence of her work. One of her fellow workers writes, “she was the brightest, most energetic, most fascinating woman I ever met, and at Addenbrooke’s, with Miss Fisher as matron, my happiest nursing days were spent.”
It is proposed to rise some memorial to her in connection with one of the hospitals with which her name is associated.
Read more about Alice Fisher here.