On Dec. 4, Bellevue College will graduate its most recent class of nurses with a traditional pinning ceremony. At the ceremony, the graduates will recite the international pledge of nursing, take part in ceremonial candle lighting and finally, they will receive a specialized pin.
“The nursing pinning ceremony, it’s kind of a rite of passage into the nursing profession,” said nursing faculty Teaessa Chism, “It started back with Florence Nightingale, during the Crimean War…[the] nurses recite a pledge devoting themselves to the profession of nursing.”
Nightingale adopted the practice of pinning her students after she herself was awarded the Royal Red Cross, a medal of distinction in the United Kingdom, for her gallantry as a nurse during the Crimean conflict. “Typically it means more to the students than graduation,” added Chism. “I still have my pin, when I graduated.”
The students will also recite the international pledge of nursing, also known as the Nightingale Pledge, a practice comparable to the recitation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by new physicians. The pledge has undergone many revisions since its creation in 1893. “The pledge itself has grown overtime and changed overtime and that’s an important piece to focus on just because the nursing profession as a whole has changed, with more autonomy,” said Chism.
The original pledge includes lines such as, “I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to faithfully practice my profession of nursing,” and “I will assist the physician in his work.” These and similar lines have been omitted or revised to reflect the sort of changes that the profession itself has experienced. “I think the updated pledge also considers more cultural competency,” added Chism.
The other component of the ceremony is the candle-lighting. Nursing faculty Jocelyn Anderson explained, “That goes back to Florence Nightingale also because she was considered ‘the lady with the lamp’ because during the war she would aid soldiers and she had her little lamp and she would go around in the dark and take care of them.
So the students do some variation of lighting their candle from a main candle and then lighting each other’s to sort of show respect to that.”
Pinning ceremonies are held twice a year at BC, once in December and one in June. The students graduating have a reason to celebrate as they have completed a long and competitive process. Nursing Department Chair Lisa Tedeschi explained the process: “They’ve gone through a lot of prerequisites just to get into the program, so when they’re in the program…we have up to two-hundred plus applicants every year and we only take 72. It is very competitive to get in, so those who get in feel they’re very lucky and so once they are in they have to take a lot of prerequisites to get into the program; a lot of sciences, at least a year plus of classes just to be eligible to get into the program.”
After graduating the new nurses will look for employment in their field. “Right now it’s pretty tough because when the economy went down in 2008, when the bubble burst, a lot of nurses who planned on retiring didn’t because their 401k went out the window so they didn’t retire,” explained Tedeschi, adding, “but as the economy is getting better they’re getting more and more jobs.”
The department sends out a survey to the graduates after six months to see whether or not they gain employment. Said Tedeschi, “We don’t always have a very big number [of students who respond] but last, when we sent out, we had nine respond and a hundred percent said that they were employed. In previous years when the bubble had burst, we had like 75% said they were employed.”