A Legacy Pinned

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There is an art as well as a science to Nursing — a profession that honors significant ceremony which, across time, has successfully blended modern practice with ancient roots.

National rites of passage form part of the Nursing culture. Pinning, for example, can be traced to 11th Century, when the Order of Knights Hospitaller (Order of St. John) cared for injured crusaders. By the 16th Century, the Maltese cross was worn by each monk installed in the care-giving knight’s order.

Centuries later, Florence Nightingale’s service to wounded soldiers of the Crimean War led to the transformation of nursing into a modern healthcare profession. When she established the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, in 1860, and was honored with the Red Cross of St. George for her Crimean War efforts, Florence Nightingale in turn presented a medal of excellence to selected nursing graduates. By the early 1900s, the nursing profession had grown, and it became practice to award pins to all nursing school graduates during special ceremony, called Pinning.

Symbols that pass along the Florence Nightingale value system continue to mark Nursing milestones, particularly in this month of graduation as well as recognition of International Nurses Day. Nursing programs worldwide still conduct ceremonies, unique to each school, which may include Pinning as well as Capping, recitation of the Nightingale Pledge, and a Candle-Lighting ceremony to symbolize the “Angel with the Lamp” vision of Nightingale during the Crimean War.

The University of Arizona’s College of Nursing — Arizona’s first baccalaureate program begun in 1957 as part of the College of Liberal Arts — connects to the Nursing ritual and has adapted ceremony within the context of its contemporary nursing education program.

University of Arizona Nursing School Students and Pin
University of Arizona Nursing School Students and Pin

According to the University’s College of Nursing Communication Director Janelle Drumwright, the presentation and pinning of a school pin is still tradition, although Capping is gone, replaced by induction ceremonies that focus on professionalism.

The original UofA Nursing pin was made of copper adapted from the 75th anniversary seal of the University. The “torch of truth” was sculpted over a map of the state of Arizona, with Tucson indicated by a star and mountain ranges representing the natural landscape of the area. The dates on the pin indicate the founding of the University in 1885 and the beginning of the nursing program in 1957.

Additionally, notes Janelle, when nursing students earn a doctoral degree — Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing (PhD) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) — they are adorned with the academic hood representative of their earned degree. The hoods are lined with the official colors of the University of Arizona, red and blue, for the PhD, and for the DNP, the velvet border is apricot to represent the nursing discipline.

According to the College’s website, capping and uniforms were an important part of early UofA ceremony: “The original nursing students’ uniform was a pink-and-white pinafore with a cap and pin. The cap-suggestive of a mantilla, mountains, and a saguaro cactus-was designed by George Harvill, the wife of then UA president Richard Harvill.”

This is the 1997 UofA newsletter description of the first cap: “The University of Arizona College of Nursing cap was designed in 1960 by Mrs. Richard Harvill, wife of the President of the University, and typifies Arizona and the Southwest’s Spanish heritage. The high folded ridge of the cap suggests the graceful and stately mantilla of the Spanish señoritas associated with the early history of this part of the country. The perpendicular tucks give strength to the cap design, as do the sturdy ribs supporting the saguaro that is characteristic of the Sonora Desert.” (http://www.nursing.arizona.edu/july97.pdf)

A global Nursing culture continues to evolve in professional heath care practice, advocacy, scholarship and science — all the while preserving its legacy, ceremony and symbolism.


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