Have you heard of Nurse Honor Guard? Honor Presentations at Funerals or Memorial Services

Have you heard of the Nurse Honor Guard? I hadn’t until a few days ago. There is a Nebraska Nurse Honor Guard (which touches my roots) and there are other state Honor Guards as well. Use your search engine to see if your state has one.

What is it? A group of nurses who volunteer to perform an honor presentation at funerals or memorial services for licensed practical and registered nurses. It reminds me of a veteran's honor guard and 21 gun salute. This is nurses honoring nurses. No 21 gun salute but a symbolic representation of officially releasing the nurse from their nursing duties. It is the cap and cape of our recognized uniform, actually, what I wore when I graduated. It is a reading of Florence Nightingale’s Pledge or other readings. It is the placing of a white rose representing honor and devotion. It includes a nursing lamp light extinguished as part of the ceremony.  A “we recognize the care, attention, and, yes, the sacrifice you have made for your fellow citizens.”

I was told a patient on hospice, who was a nurse, requested the ceremony be done for her in her bedroom before she died. How I love that! Why wait until we are dead to be applauded for the good work we have done. How can we smile and even shed a tear for the show of appreciation when we are dead, too late?   

I’m not saying any of us in the nursing profession do our work, give of ourselves unselfishly, for the recognition of others BUT I am saying it is certainly appreciated when recognition is given. 

Recognition makes the sacrifice, the long hours, the emotional toll just a tad lighter.  After we are gone that recognition may ease the hearts of those we leave behind. After we are gone the ceremony is really a gift for them but we, who did the work, may never know the effect of our service or feel the honor unless it is shown now when we can see and hear words of thank you.

Today, in this time of Covid, we could certainly use more symbols of appreciation for the nursing profession. I’m just saying “Let us not have to die to have someone salute us and say ”job well done".

The Nurse Honor Guard is a wonderful ritual, the salute to a fallen warrior.

I think this poem by Duane Jaeger, RN, MSN beautifully describes a nurse.

She Was There 

When a calming, quiet presence was all that was needed,

She was there. 

In the excitement and miracle of birth or in the mystery and loss of life, 

She was there. 

When a silent glance could uplift a patient, family member or friend,

She was there. 

At those times when the unexplainable needed to be explained, 

She was there. 

When the situation demanded a swift foot and sharp mind, 

She was there. 

When a gentle touch, a firm push, or an encouraging word was needed, 

She was there. 

In choosing the best one from a family’s “Thank You” box of chocolates, 

She was there. 

To witness humanity—its beauty, in good times and bad, without judgment, 

She was there. 

To embrace the woes of the world, willingly, and offer hope, 

She was there 

And now, that it is time to be at the Greater One’s side, 

She is there. 

©2004 Duane Jaeger, RN, MSN

Related products


Charlotte Abrams

We are having a funeral for a relative of mine who had a bsn and was 31 years old and had passed away after 7 bouts with many different cancers and I was wanting yo know who to contact or call to see about this service to be done gor her. We ate doing her services at Robinville North Carolina on Sat 8th at 1-3 and a celebration of her life at 3 and her nursing was one of her biggest joys in life and I think it would be an honor for this to be done for her and her family. Please let me know what I can do or if I need to call someone about it. Your mote than welcome to even call me 740-479-0471 anytime. Thanks so much.
BK Books replied:
Hi Charlotte, I could not find a North Carolina Nurses Honor Guard in Google but I did find a South Carolina Nurse Honor Guard.com (Don’t know if that will help). Also found an email jmury581@gmail.com saying contact me for nurse honor guard locations so you might try that. Good luck. It is a very nice gift you are trying to give. Blessings! Barbara

Mary Jane LaFond

We have 2 male volunteer nurses. We ask they wear white and may add their stethescope around their neck. We also make sure we are gender neutral and add sister and brother nurses instead of just sister nurses.
BK Books replied:
Hi Mary Jane, thank you for sharing about the Nurse Honor Guard and how you have included men. Blessings! Barbara

barbara karnes

Hi Claire, thank you for pointing out that the Nurse Honor Guard is female slanted; cape and cap. I would think if a male nurse died and the family wanted an Honor Guard what the nurses wore wouldn’t matter. If a man wanted to be part of the Honor Guard (which would be great) I’m sure they could come up with a “uniform” symbol for him. Blessings! Barbara

Claire Fagley Ginesi

I would just say that this is so female oriented. We have an ever growing presence of men in our ranks and perhaps the focus on women only needs to be changed. I have been an RN for 40 years but the lamp and especially the hat are not the symbols of my profession for me.

J Murray

I came across your article about the Nurses Honor Guard. I am the Coordinator for the National Nurses Honor Guard Coalition and have helped get over a hundred groups around the country get started. If you hear of anyone wanting to start a group please have them contact me at jmury581@gmail.com. Here is a link to our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nurseshonorguard/ Thank you for getting the word out about the Nurses Honor Guard.

1 2 3

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published