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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10 comments

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!

barbara

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

Jane Staugas

Dear Barbara -
My husband’s mother, a nurse, died this past May in a beautiful hospice center near Tampa, Florida – and they performed just this service the day she moved in! Nice homey private room, a garden view, with soft music and a large flat TV screen with nature scenes on a loop. I was very pleased to see such a center and wished we still had such a place in Oregon. (she needed more attending to than we could have done). We got to all stand around her bed, my husband, myself and the 3 nurses on staff at the moment as they read to her and honored her for her service to the profession. She was still conscious and in the moment with us all – and seemed very moved by it as well. I mentioned your booklets to the social worker there (Melech Hospice House) who said she had heard of them, but they did not have a set. I sent them some after Doris passed in her honor to add to their library. Just thought you would be pleased to hear of other hospice houses offering this service to the actively dying.

Anne Gorman

I love the idea of Nurse Honor Guards and Duane Jaeger’s poem ‘She Was There’ is right on.
Thank you for all you do Barbara.

Esther to Ideker

Truly, Barbara, you said it well. We nurses use any opportunity we can to share this Nightingale Tribute available to families of nurse loved ones. My nurse friends have been a part of several Nightingale Tributes for colleagues and it so meaningful. ( As recently as a month ago… the family were so appreciative) Thank you for bringing an awareness of this Tribute.

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