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

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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.

L Klemons

The North Carolina Nurses Honor Guard serves the family of deceased Nurses at the time of their death by standing guard, one hour prior to the Funeral or Memorial service. The Nightingale Tribute is performed, a white rose is placed on the casket, or beside the Urn, a final call to duty is announced, with the Nurse being called three times (bell rings out with each call) after the third call, the Nurse is then released from their Nursing duties, as their work on earth is done. This is followed by a recitation of the Nurses Prayer and ends with the Nightingale lamp being forever extinguished and presented to the family (much like a flag presentation at a Military Funeral). This is performed at absolutely no cost to the family.
It is our honor to serve “In their honor.”
t is not difficult or expensive to start a Nurses Honor Guard. The caps and lamps are available online and the capes are hand made with a simple pattern. Once you take the idea to nurses in your area, you form a volunteer list that you can call on. The larger the group the better, as not everyone would be available each time your services is needed. Retired nurses are also a valuable resource. Once you have a few meetings and get your caps and capes, you can make appointments with local funeral directors and let them know to offer this service to the family. It is helpful to provide them with a flyer to give to the family. Each nurse is responsible to purchase their own white uniform and shoes.
If interested in pursuing this, reach out to
Julie Murray at jmury581@gmail.com

L Klemons

I’ve been trying to start a chapter of this in Charlotte, NC without much success. I love the idea of doing this for nurses at the end of life with a little fine tweaking. I’m definitely going to incorporate this into my End of Life/Death Doula work for any nurse I might be honored to assist transition. Thx for sharing the idea.

M. Smith

I have a 1st cousin in Carroll, Iowa who just passed away. She is about our age She had been a nurse in an old person home for decades. From the notice I read, there will be a nurse honor guard. All together fitting and proper!


Hi Jane, thank you so much for sharing your experience with the hospice doing an Honor Guard presentation BEFORE your mother-in-law’s death. Perfect!!!! Blessings to you and your family. Barbara

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