The Nursing Pin and History of the Pinning Ceremony

More than three million medical professionals work in nursing in the United States. Nurses work in a wide variety of settings from hospitals and trauma centers to community-based settings such as schools. Nursing has evolved significantly over time, and it had humble beginnings with nurses focusing on servitude duties instead of assisting with health care. One of the biggest days in many nurses' lives is the day they are pinned in the pinning ceremony.

History of Nursing

Florence Nightingale is generally recognized as the founder of the modern nursing profession. The British government extended an invitation to Nightingale to work in a military hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War, which was fought between 1853 and 1856. Nightingale and her team of workers helped reduce the mortality rate of soldiers at the hospital after they arrived. During the American Civil War, women began helping care for sick and wounded troops in temporary hospitals. These volunteers were instrumental in saving many lives, which helped garner public support for nursing as a profession. Training programs for nurses weren't available until the late 1800s. Initially, students were taught nursing skills in hospitals in exchange for caring for patients. By the mid-1900s, colleges and universities took over with nursing programs designed to teach nurses the more complex skills they needed to care for patients. Today, students can earn undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degrees in nursing.

Meaning of the Pinning Ceremony

In addition to the graduation ceremonies that mark the completion of a nursing degree program, nurses have an additional ceremony that marks the successful completion of a nursing degree program. This ceremony is called the pinning ceremony, and in some ways, it's more meaningful for nurses than the graduation ceremony. The pinning ceremony symbolizes the efforts expended to finish coursework and clinical training hours successfully to become nurses. While pinning is an important celebration of the transition from student to nurse, many students still need to take and pass their licensure examination after being pinned.

Origins of the Nurse Pinning Ceremony

The pinning ceremony dates back to knights that cared for crusaders during the Crusades in the 12th century. Monks who cared for these sick soldiers were recognized in a ceremony that involved giving them a Maltese cross, which they wore on their arms. Florence Nightingale was honored for her service during the Crimean War, and she then gave medals of excellence to some of the hardest workers on her team. Eventually, the medal of excellence wasn't just awarded to the hardest workers. All nursing graduates were given a pin when they finished school in a special ceremony. The pin became the identifier that showed nurses had completed their education.

Description of the Pinning Ceremony

Students usually invite family and friends to witness the pinning ceremony. Some institutions allow students to choose a special person to whom they dedicate their pins. The students and their chosen individuals gather on a stage for the ceremony. Each special guest pins the pin onto the student's lapel. While the students are being pinned, a faculty member reads a dedication. Other institutions may have a faculty member bestow the pins on the students. The students also recite the Nightingale pledge during a candle-lighting ceremony.