Missy Hampel, second from left, with her fellow Nurse Honor Guard members
The group is among the more than 125 Nurse Honor Guard programs that have been formed since the first one was started in Illinois in 2003. Like a military tribute, the Nurse Honor Guards accompany or follow family members as they enter and depart their loved one's memorial or funeral service.
“This is such a meaningful way to honor fellow nurses who have cared so lovingly for others throughout their lifetime,” says Missy Hampel, who serves as a nursing director at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis. Hampel is serving as the group's treasurer and is one of the fledgling group's dozen members and 500 followers of its Facebook group. "I am proud to be a part of this group and to have other current and retired Ascension Via Christi nurses serving with me."
At the services, members recite the "Nightingale Tribute," written years ago by a former Ascension Via Christi nurse to honor deceased nurses. It is now read at all Honor Guard ceremonies nationwide.
The Nightingale Tribute was named after Florence Nightingale, who established the first professional nursing school in 1860 and was known as the “Lady of the Lamp” because she made her rounds by the light of the lamp she carried. Today, Nurse Honor Guards carry a lit lamp resembling Nightingale’s and wear a traditional white uniform, cape and hat, similar to the uniforms worn in her day.
During the service, honor guard members either place a white rose, symbolizing a nurse’s professional dedication, on the casket or give it to the family. After they read the Nightingale Tribute, they call the nurse's name and ring a triangle or bell three times. Once the roll call is complete, the nurse is officially released from his or her nursing duties and the Nightingale lamp is extinguished.
The volunteer nurses work directly with area funeral directors throughout our community, who in turn work with the families wanting this tribute to their loved one.
"I have had the opportunity to serve at several services and it truly was a touching experience for everyone involved," says Hampel.