pins nurses receive upon graduation

Pinned to Tradition: History of the Nursing Pinning Ceremony

The Nursing Pinning Ceremony marks the first time that students can call themselves nurses. Acting as their unofficial welcome to the medical world, this ceremony is performed at almost every school across the country and in the United Kingdom. 

As most people know, Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing. Born in 1820, Nightingale managed nurses during the Crimean War and established the nursing school at St. Thomas' Hospital in London. Often known as "The Lady with the Lamp" for her long nights spent working by candlelight, the Nightingale Pledge is often repeated at pinning ceremonies to indicate the new nurses' dedication to the profession. 

It was when Nightingale began presenting awards for nursing excellence in the 1860s that the idea of a pin became popular. Initially used to mark out exemplary work in nursing, now all new nursing graduates receive a pin from their school. The ceremony became popular in the United States around 1916. 

But Nightingale wasn't the first to bring about the concept of marking nurses with awards and differentiators. It was actually back in the 12th Century, during the Crusades, that monks tending to wounded soldiers were given a Maltese cross to wear on their arms. The awarding of a cross became a ceremony for the monks and evolved into the first nursing pinning ceremony. 

Today the ceremony is a mark of celebration. Some graduates wear their scrubs while others take the opportunity to dress up. Different schools have different ceremonies, but speeches are made and fond memories discussed as the newly minted nurses take their first professional steps. At many schools, the graduate can choose their pinner, often seeking out an important professor or person in their life, while others are pinned by nursing department faculty.

No matter the final form the pinning ceremony takes, they all have one thing in common: celebrating student success and their transition to the nursing profession.

Degrees, Higher Education

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Portrait of Emilie Lewis