History and Meaning Behind the Pinning Ceremony

The nursing pinning ceremony is a time honored tradition that can be dated back to the 12th century. It is a celebration of the graduates completion of nursing school, and welcomes the new graduates into the brotherhood and sisterhood of nursing. The pinning ceremony has various traditions and symbols including the cap, pin, lamp, and pledge. Origin The pinning ceremony can be traced back to the Crusades of the 12th century. The Knights of The Order of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist tended to the injured Crusaders. When new monks would be initiated, they held a ceremony where they took a vow to serve the sick soldiers. They also received a Maltese cross, this being the first badge given to those who nurse. Modern Day nursing ceremonies began when Florence Nightingale’s influence resulted in the importance of “nurses training” being recognized by hospitals. This lead to the development of hospital based training programs. The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas Hospital in London designed and awarded a badge with a Maltese Cross to nurses that completed their program. The ceremony awarding badges became tradition in England and the U.S. by 1916. Cap The original origin of the cap included a capping ceremony at the beginning of the nursing program. The students would receive different colored stripes as they progressed through the nursing program. At the pinning ceremony the nurses would receive a stripe to signify the completion of their schooling and becoming a “expert nurse.” At both of my pinning ceremonies– we simply wore the cap at the pinning ceremony with the stripe attached, we never had a capping ceremony. However, some schools still honor this tradition. Color of stripes vary per school- some schools use a chosen color specific to the school. Others use a black stripe to memorialize Nightingale’s death. Lamp When the modern-day pinning ceremony first began in the 1860’s, the lamp was a symbol of the care and devotion the nurse administers to the injured and sick during his/her practice as a nurse. After the nurses were pinned, Florence Nightingale would light a lamp and pass the flame to the graduating nurses. Today, the lamp is also a representation of Nightingale’s “rounds at night” and her dedication to her patients and the field of nursing. The lighting of the lamp by nursing instructors symbolizes the knowledge that is passed from instructor to graduate nurse. Pin The nursing pin in modern times is a representation of the school the nurse graduated from. While original pins included the Maltese cross, designs today vary widely among institutions. The nursing pin is presented to the new graduate nurse at the pinning ceremony by faculty members as a symbolic welcome to the profession. Florence Nightingale Pledge

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.

In 1893, this modified “Hippocratic Oath” was composed by Mrs. Lystra E. Gretter and a Committee from the Farrand Training School for Nurses in Detroit, Michigan. It was given the title of “Florence Nightingale Pledge” as a token of appreciation for the founder of modern nursing. The pledge is recited by the new graduate nursing class while the lamps are lit as a pledge to their devotion and dedication to the field of nursing.

Now that you know the meaning behind the pinning ceremony, check out my recent blog post about my own pinning ceremony!