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Tips for Pinning Planners

By Karen Kearsley, RN

Girls at pinningThe Pinning Ceremony is a wonderful time-honored nursing school tradition, dating back before the turn of the twentieth century. Some schools view the pinning ceremony as an outdated ritual and are abandoning it altogether. It is a more intimate version of the graduation special to nursing graduates; a celebration of what you and your class have accomplished during the past two-four (sometimes more) years.

Here’s what some students had to say:

“I love that myself and my classmates will get special recognition apart from the other college graduates. In the graduation ceremony, there are several hundred graduates. Everyone wears the same thing so there is no distinction. I am quite excited that we get our own separate ceremony, for those of us and our families who understand what we've been through to get where we are.” –Kim

“I graduated from nursing school 4 years ago, and we were required to do pinning and graduation. I can tell you that the pinning was more significant to me. Not that these professions aren't important, but graduation got lost to accountants and business type people. Pinning was about the nurses. It was all of us, who had struggled through the same thing and endured the same tortures. We would just look at each other and cry, because this is what we had all been talking about for sooooo long. And our loved ones, the people who helped get us through it and sacrificed just as much, were there with us. Our instructors pinned us. Very formal affair. It just meant so much.” -Donna

The Traditional Ceremony

pinning processionThe traditional ceremony starts with a processional of graduates in white uniforms.

There is usually a guest speaker and one or more student speakers, including the class president or president of your local Student Nurses’ Association. Read past speaches here.

Awards are given out and flowers are given to choice faculty members.

Reading of the Florence Nightingale Pledge:

I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.

Passing the flame, lighting candles as Florence Nightingale’s lamplight was passed. A member of the faculty lights each candle after the graduate is pinned and welcomes the new nurse or, all graduates line up and the flame travels down the line with, each graduate lighting their neighbor’s candle welcoming them to nursing.

The New Trends

Girls at pinning being congratulatedStudents are wearing semi-formal attire or caps and gowns rather then the traditional white uniforms.

Students are choosing who pins them instead of one faculty member pinning all. Popular choices are their child, spouse, parent, other relative, or a favorite clinical instructor.

While the graduate is pinned another reads their prepared words of thanks and announce where they will start their career.

Including a 5-10 minute slide show reflecting on the past years in school is a nice touch. Use background music or have a voiceover of students reflecting on their nursing school experience.

Reciting an updated Nursing Pledge such as:

Before God and in the presence of this assembly we promise:

  • To practice the art and science of nursing, toward increasing patients’ physical and emotional health, based on evidence and current nursing research.
  • To acknowledge the privilege to hold their lives in our care, and practice nursing, in partnership with our patients.
  • To acknowledge the privilege to comfort our dying patients, into death, with dignity.
  • To hold those entrusted to our care with respect, affirm their innate worth and hold their privacies in confidence.
  • To advocate for the health and needs of our patients, respecting their cultural and religious beliefs.
  • To act as leaders in promoting health throughout our communities.
  • To hold in esteem nursing educators, researchers, scholars and experts who have guided our path, and are welcoming us into the profession.
  • To help strengthen fellow nurses and advance the aims of our nursing profession.
  • To share our knowledge with, encourage, and welcome future nurses.

See more pledges here.

The passing of the flame is still very popular as it is a beautiful part of the ceremony.

So plan your pinning and make it your own. Do what works for your class and it will be a wonderful, beautiful and emotional ceremony you and your loved ones will never forget.

More Tips From Past Planners

Candles and pledge cards taped  to seats"Have it at a local church to save money if you can't use a campus facility."

"Using a ribbon with the pin pinned to the ends so the "Pinner" places it around the nurses neck makes it easier for children to do the pinning. Also, you can have the pins of your relatives pinned to the ribbon so you get pinned with your Grandmother/Mother's pin as well."

"Enlist the help of the Jr. class if you have to do set up and tear down."

"Rehearsals are a good thing. All the kinks get worked out which makes for a less stressful pinning."

"Impress upon your classmates to arrive early. Our guests got a little antsy waiting 45 min for late students! I know we live in Los Angeles, CA and that means heavy traffic, but you would think that people would leave early. Otherwise, we had a beautiful pinning ceremony for 37 students that lasted roughly 1.5 hrs (not including the 45 min wait).

"Announcers should find out how to pronounce the students' names to avoid butchering them - LOL! Our instructors called us by first name only, so last names can surprisingly be challenging."

"We were pinned by 2 or 3 people, and the pinners had assigned seating, as we did. The pins were attached to white ribbon, which our pinner put around our neck onstage."

"We recently had our pinning this month at 4:30pm. We rented a large ballroom and chose to have theatre seating (chairs only) to seat all of our guests and faculty. Many of us wanted to have several guests attend, so in order to stay within our budget, we elected to have simple refreshments rather than a formal dinner. Many of my classmates are from out of state, so they were free to eat dinner with their families then meet up at a class party later on."

"Don't assume the staff at the ballroom, hotel, etc. should know to cut the cake or replenish the punch, etc. Ask for what you want done BEFORE the event."

"We arranged our own flowers and gift bouquets for faculty and honored guests. We voted for "Most likely to...earn a PhD, become a Nursing Instructor, Class Clown, etc." and placed their framed photos at the entrance table. Traditionally, upcoming 4th semester class officers help set up, usher, hand out class programs, and clean up.

Our music was traditional. Pomp and Circumstance for the processional -Single file in alphabetical order to fill the seats and standing until the last person stood in front of her seat then we sat as a group. Rondeau from Premiere Suite was chosen for the recessional. We all stood up and departed single file, row by row.

We had 3 song selections playing during a 10 minute class DVD that caused even our 3 guys to get misty-eyed. The DVD was a mix of stills and videos of student interviews describing their nursing program experiences. The interviews overlapped the stills as "voiceover" or narrative which was a very nice touch. Each of our class chairs had a candle, pledge, and a class DVD.

The Dean of Nursing announced guest speakers, the class prez addressed the class, and the other class officers took their turns at the podium to announce student awards or to hand out gift bouquets.

We asked 2 faculty members to call us up to receive our class pins. Each student's picture and chosen hospital and unit, or choice of specialty was on the screen behind us as we received our pins. Luckily, we were allowed to choose our pinners. I chose my son and husband for all of their sacrifice and support - a true "WE DID IT!" moment. Many students chose their parents. Only one of us chose a nursing instructor. Lastly, we lined up single file onto the stage to light candles and recite the Nightingale Pledge with our dean in the middle. We used paper drip catchers rather than "Lamp of Knowledge" candle holders and we had slips of paper with the pledge as back up." -Tina Kloepfer, SN from SoCali




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