Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Nightengale Pledge

When a person graduates from Nursing School, he/she not only has a graduation, but they have a pinning ceremony as well. For me the graduation was a big deal, but the pinning ceremony is what really counted. That is what really made me feel like I had accomplished being a nurse.
We listened to our Professors give us words of wisdom, encouragement for the jobs we were about to do, the world we were about to face. And we heard numerous funny stories of happenings during out time in school.

Then the serious part came. . .
We walked across the stage one at a time when our names were called. Each of us wore white robes, under which we were dressed in our Sunday best. We were given a pin. This pin stated we had made it, we had graduated from this school. We were ready to take our state boards, go out into the "real" world and be RN's!!
THEN . . . It happened. . . .

We all stood together and said the following words in unison. . .

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

Those words are "The Nightengale Pledge". This pledge was composed by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and was first used by its graduating class in the spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians.

It has become tradition for Nursing Schools across the country, maybe even the world (I am not sure). I believe I read somewhere that there are variations to this pledge. That some words are been replaced (such as using "God"), however that is totally another post!!!

I remember crying as I said those words. I remember praying as I read those words. Praying that God would give me the wisdom to do this job; that I would not forget all that I had learned in those 4 years. I prayed I would have all the compassion needed, the stomach it took, and the patience to care for all who crossed my path. I remember walking out of that auditorium that day with my head in the clouds, my heart full, and . . . scared to death. I had just become a nurse. I had just fulfilled a dream. I had just become someone who would at some point in my career be in a position where I had to advocate for a patient or family, someone who might have to challenge a doctor, someone who had potential to make a fatal mistake. I would be given the opportunity to hold the hand of a dying person, young and old. I might have the opportunity to be witness to a first breath of new life. OH MY. . . I was an RN!!

Today, I still remember that pledge. It has been 4 years since I first spoke those words. I still pray everyday on my way to work.

Lord, please give me the wisdom to care for the patients whom I will be assigned to today. Give me patience for those who are difficult. Give me patience for the doctors who are difficult. Lord, allow my compassion to show, even during times of frustration. Remind me to look at the whole picture, and that the person I am caring for is so much more than a diagnosis. Lord, let my arms be your arms, and my hands be your hands. Let he words of my mouth speak nothing but kindess. Let my co-workers see You through me today.

I still LOVE being a nurse. I love that I work a different unit every day. I love that I am continuing to learn new things with each shift. I love and crave the times that my team is small enough that I have time to give to each individual patient. Listening to their fears, their joys, or anything else they want to share.



  1. The prayer you pray on the way to work left me with tears. I have often thought if only the nurses caring for my Mom were extensions of God, what a difference it would have made in her care. Thank you for answering the call and following your heart. Much Love, Sharon

  2. Great blog post! You must be so proud of yourself.