A nursing pinning ceremony is a well-deserved tribute to all the hard work you invested in becoming a nurse. You and your classmates conquered anatomy labs, nursing exams and challenging hospital clinicals. Now you can celebrate your extraordinary accomplishments with friends and family who helped you emotionally through the arduous process. Tears of happiness will be flowing when you receive a nursing pin at your pinning ceremony. The event lasts about two hours and may include light refreshments and music.

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Graduating nursing students receive their school's designated nursing pin at a special pinning ceremony welcoming them into the nursing profession.

What Is Pinning in Nursing?

Certain special people have the natural talent, dedication and emotional disposition to make it through a competitive nursing program. Before you could even apply to nursing school, you worked hard to excel in difficult prerequisites like physiology, chemistry and biology. At long last, you made it through your nursing courses and proved you have what it takes to provide competent, compassionate patient care. You will be rewarded for your effort with a specially designed nurse’s pin for your uniform. You may also be asked to write a short note of thanks acknowledging those who helped make your dream possible. The thank-you note is read when the nurse is being pinned.

What Is a Pinning Ceremony?

Many nursing schools and even online nursing programs hold a traditional pinning ceremony at the school or an alternative venue. The format varies from one school to the next. The event is attended by faculty, administrators, clinical preceptors and guests invited by students. Typically, the ceremony includes a welcome, faculty speeches and sharing of class memories. Awards may be given for outstanding achievement. The program culminates in the presentation of pins to the graduating class. The pin conferred is custom designed for the school. Faculty members pin each student. However, some schools allow nursing students to choose an inspirational person in their life to come up front and award the pin to that student. Mingling, socializing, gift giving and picture taking follow the ceremony. You may want to drop hints about new nurse gift ideas like a scrub jacket, stethoscope, compression socks or a dozen red roses.

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When Does a Pinning Ceremony Happen?

A pinning ceremony is a rite of passage held shortly before graduation. Customarily, nursing students can receive a pin before final exams, commencement ceremonies or obtaining a nursing license. Not all nursing schools hold pinning ceremonies, asserting that the tradition is outdated. Some schools leave it up to the nursing students to raise money for the event and plan the program if they wish to do so. The pinning ceremony is more personable and meaningful to many nurses than are college graduation ceremonies, which is why the practice continues.

Traditional Elements of the Ceremony and Meaning

The noble tradition of the pinning ceremony dates back 100 years to the modern nursing founder, Florence Nightingale, who awarded medals to top-performing students in the graduating class of nurses. By 1916, all nursing students in the U.S. received a pin after completing the courses needed to sit for their state nursing licensing examination. Pin designs often depict an oil lamp like the one used by Florence Nightingale when helping wounded soldiers at night during the Crimean War.

What Is the Nursing Oath?

As part of the pinning ceremony, nurses commonly carry electric candles that may be lit when they walk in or during the recitation of a professional oath called the Nightingale Pledge. Written in 1893 by Lystra Gretter at a Detroit nursing school, the Nightingale Pledge is a vow of professionalism. Graduating nurses promise to uphold the standards of Florence Nightingale and the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, maintain confidentiality and strive for excellence.

About the Author

Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.