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Once upon a pinning ceremony

Image: Oregon Historical Quarterly

Once upon a time, a long time ago, in time before budget cuts, before furlough days and tuition hikes, my nursing school paid for each class’s pinning ceremony. Everything was fine and dandy, a standard ceremony, traditional candle lightning, the nightingale pledge, and of course the pins! And every graduate was happy. But one year, a class decided to do something different. Everyone wanted to wear old fashioned nursing caps. So they begged and pleaded, but the nursing school said, “oh no you di-in’t! And if you want caps, you can pay for them all by yourself!” The nursing class said, “Fine! We’re not afraid of you! We’ll pay for the whole ceremony ourselves!” And the class raised their own money and had their own ceremony, nursing caps and all. And for all the classes that followed, whether they wanted caps or not, each class had to raise their own money and plan their own pinning ceremony. And so it was, and so it has been, and so it continues to be.

Dear nursing class that just had to have their own caps – THANKS A BUNCH!

We have a pinning ceremony to plan. It’s the one day we’re looking forward to, we’ve been anticipating it since we started the program, that one day we’ll join the ranks with the rest, pledging ourselves in solidarity with all the nurses that came before us. I’m excited for it (only 8 months to go), but honestly, it’s a whole lot less exciting when you have to plan it yourself. As class co-president, part of my responsibility is figuring it all out, the venue, the time, will there be food, drinks, what kind of ceremony do we want, how many speakers, and of course – how much is it going to cost us. We have to tally up class dues, and plan fundraisers, and of course make everyone (or as many people as we can!) happy, since it’s OUR day. I love it. I really do, and I like that we have a say in what we want for OUR day (not that we want nursing caps). But between studying for all our classes, and ATI tests, and clinical papers and staying on top of everything else, I feel like it would be nice if the school of nursing could help us out and plan something for us. I mean, planning a pinning ceremony is like throwing wedding plans on top of it all. It’s stressful, and adds one more financial  burden on our classmates, something none of us need at this point, but we’re getting there. Slowly but surely the fundraising is working, the dues are getting paid, and plans are being laid out. It’s going to be a good one, but sometimes I wish I could go back in time and told that class that having nursing caps really just wasn’t THAT important!

Students – what do you do for your pinning ceremony? Does the school fund it for you? Or is it up to you?

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Ani Burr, RN

I'm a brand new, full-fledged, fresh-out-of-school RN! And better yet, I landed the job of my dreams working with children. I love what I do, and while everyday on the job is a new (and sometimes scary) experience, I'm taking it all in - absorbing everything I can about this amazing profession we all fell in love with.
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19 Responses to Once upon a pinning ceremony

  1. acey

    The ceremony is the responsibility of the class.

    Personally, I skipped it. I’m not the sentimental sort. An evening of tears and memories followed by cake and punch? No thank you. I’d rather save the $50 and celebrate with my family at home instead.

  2. Peggy

    Okay – a hundred years ago when I was in LPN school, we didn’t have a pinning ceremony (got that at graduation) but I will NEVER forget the day the instructors came in with our caps. Oh, glory be we were soooo excited!! And I may get flamed, but I still don’t get why caps are gone. I loved mine and was very proud of it and still am. So, at least enjoy the ceremony, the connection to your nursing history and then put your cap in a place of honor.

  3. lisa

    No Pinning ceremony? Wow you are losing the very reason you became a nurse. No calling don’t become one, because you will not make it, you will burn out in a year and become the nurse from hell like so many are now good money or not! Pinning ceremony is just as needful as other professions that have rights of passage ceremonies.

  4. Ani Burr Scrubs Blogger

    Pinning ceremonies are definitely a fantastic thing – don’t get me wrong. I got the pleasure of helping out at the last graduating class’s ceremony and loved it. We don’t get caps at ours (unless our class wants them, which, i don’t think they do!), but we do get our pins, we light our candles and recite the Nightingale pledge. I can’t wait. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m fascinated by the history of our profession, and love that connectedness we still have with those who’ve come before us. I think the pinning is a great culmination of our schooling, my conflict is (as someone in charge of planning it) that it’s a lot of work for us students to plan while still in school and trying to get by. I want our ceremony to be great, and that’s why I want to be a part of the planning, but sometimes I just wish the school would take care of it!!

  5. Sara McCoy,RN

    Not quite sure that your historical representation of the class that “asked for caps” was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to someone else vs the graduates-to-be funding their pinning ceremony. “YOUR” pinning ceremony is exactly that, yours. The old addage of “you’ll appreciate it more if you pay for it versus if it is just given to you” is so true. My graduating class funded our own ceremony, (schools organize graduation, not pinnings), the class behind us was “required” to provide essential coverage in order to work at our ceremony as greeters & seaters, food & beverage servers, runners, gophers, sanitation team, etc.. (so they could see what went on & decide what THEY wanted to do when it was THEIR turn), plus we donated any remaining funds from our ceremony budget to their planning budget. Since we paid for OUR ceremony, we got to decide who/what/when/where/why and how…and made it ALL ABOUT US and the history of nursing, which we would soon be becoming part of. I had the honor of giving the commencement speech to the gathering…our class nominated classmates they wanted to give the speech, those people- if interested- prepared a speech on the topic they would use at the pinning ceremony, and then presentated their speech in front of our class & it was up to the class to decide by written vote to decide who would give our pinning commencement speech. Our entire class planned this event, every single student helped in some capacity. We did this amidst scurrying to the lab at odd hours to check cultures growing, going to the hospital to review patient charts in preparation of clinicals, a never ending cycle of classes…the same thing every nursing student goes thru. During our senior year it was expected you had all non-nursing coursework completed with exception of Micribiology II…so we typically has 12 hours of nursing classes during that final semester and 3 in microbiology. If you can’t survive planning and participating in YOUR pinning ceremony, how will you survive 12 hour shifts that run over because you had a few codes and have to finish charting, or you were mandated to work an extra 8 hours because of call-ins, you only had 10 minutes to scarf down your food at work IF you even took the time to eat and gasp, sit down for a break, you have to plan an in-service for your department on the do’s and don’ts of charting and there is a nursing school with, OMG, students on the floor today… plus you are a husband/wife/brother/sister/mother/father/HUMAN that has a life other than being a nurse? I am proud of my pin, I understand the legacy of my nursing cap…I worked very hard to earn the privilege of waering either of them. What I wish would return was the cape. My Mother tells me stories of her days in nursing school (Monmouth’s first graduating class of diploma nurses)–her dorm (where Daddy Warbucks lived in the film, Annie), her fellow students, what their clinicals were like (nothing like moderm times..8-12 hours of classwork followed by 8-12 hours of hands on nursing care), her textbooks (I have her pharmaceutical book published in 1938), and how they all looked so suave and distinguished in their uniform, cap and CAPE. Enjoy your nursing career… we are a rare breed. Don’t do it for the money (it does pay well), do it because you enjoy it, and you are good at it. You will know if nursing is your calling when you have your first clinical rotation in a specialty area that keeps you coming back for more. Nursing had me when I arrived for Day 1 of Med-Surg.

  6. Tim

    On behalf of the 5.8% of male nurses in the US, I would like to say that we got together and voted. We came to the over whelming conclusion that we don’t want to wear nursing caps. We love and respect that we chose a field of scientific endevor founded by women but we don’t want to dress like you guys while doing it….LOL Love ya

  7. Norma Meier

    When I graduated from nursing school in 1991 we had about 10 men in our class and we as woman were PROUD to wear our caps and loved our capping ceremony and our second year we were excited to put our “stripes” on our caps. When we graduated “pinned” then men didn’t care we wore caps they of course did not and one thing was golden we were taught that where ever we will work we be the best nurse’s because we were taught almost military style but learned discipline with firm compassion from our instructors . As a result I have worked in all forms of nursing and continue to carry those words in my heart everyday I go to work. BTW (I still have my nursing cap).

  8. Darcy Ali

    I just graduated in May of 2010, so I get what this writter is saying. On top of studying, clinicals, practicums and preping for boards, they want you to plan your pinning…..It was nice, but much like planning a wedding! I had never thought of it that way, but when I read that I thought “Yes, It was!!!” I think maybe the level under the could help or maybe they could just give you more time. Our class only had three and half months to get it all planned out….try that and keeping the GPA up!

  9. Carol

    Our student nurses’ association helps fund/staff the ceremony and each student puts in $40. We are allowed to wear any type of uniform as long as it’s white and we purchase our own pins. We don’t serve food or drinks. We don’t spend a lot of time planning because we use the same basic template that was used for years. The most time intensive things are the 2 photo slide shows. I’m looking forward to it being done.

  10. Ani Burr

    Actually, it WAS the class that asked to wear nursing caps at their ceremony that broke the camel’s back. That story came directly from our administrators (with fairy-tale theme coming from me). Again, we don’t wear caps as part of our ceremony, because we’ve chosen not too, though I am excited to wear my pin proudly, most importantly because I HAVE earned it, we all have.

    I chose to be in charge of planning the ceremony, like I mentioned, because I want it to be a great experience, but we do not have everyone in the class helping out. Not only are 60 voices too many, we have some that just want to participate, and others who are planning on not attending at all. So while we have a committee, we do not have an abundance of help, making the workload greater. BUT, despite our hours of classroom lecture, clinical time, and other classwork/life experiences, we’re able to get it done. I’d like to say in response to Sara’s comments above, that I plan the pinning, while studying, on top of working 12 hour shifts as a PCSA on the weekends, blogging, being a class officer, and still managing time to see my family and friends as well.

    I’m excited to take that step back in time during the pinning ceremony, be connected to our roots, and will wear my pin proudly (sorry, but i am glad we don’t have caps, or capes), because I love nursing, not for the money, but for what it is, what it does, and our ability to touch lives.

  11. acey

    In re “Wow you are losing the very reason you became a nurse.” r/t skipping pinning ceremony:

    I did not become a nurse with the goal in mind of attending a pinning ceremony. Maybe that was your goal, but it certainly was not mine.

    An evening of tears and cake is not my idea of a good time. It’s rude of you to tell me that I’ll become a “burnout” and that I have “no calling” and will become “the nurse from hell” for choosing not to attend.

    On the contrary, it means that I have the common fiscal sense to not waste my hard earned money on something I consider sappy and sentimental and would not enjoy.

    “You are losing the very reason you became a nurse” is the most ridiculous reasoning I’ve heard all week. And I work in a locked psych unit.

    Give me a break.

  12. Ani Burr Scrubs Blogger

    HAHAHA – much agreed Acey. :)

  13. Tai

    My school, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t have them. I’ve never heard of it having them, no previous classes have discussed it and neither has the faculty. I’m a year away from graduation, but I think I’d have heard something by now if we did them.

    And if we did, I’d totally go, for the ceremonial rite of passage and for the pin — but I’m not so sure about the cap. (Just so long as I don’t have to wear a skirt and an apron, though? I won’t argue. I’d rather not look like a stereotypical “naughty nurse”; I get made fun of enough!)

  14. Tai

    My school, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t have them. I’ve never heard of it having them, no previous classes have discussed it and neither has the faculty. I’m a year away from graduation, but I think I’d have heard something by now if we did them.

    And if we did, I’d totally go, for the ceremonial rite of passage and for the pin — but I’m not so sure about the cap. (Just so long as I don’t have to wear a skirt and an apron, though? I won’t argue. I’d rather not look like a stereotypical “naughty nurse”; I get made fun of enough!)

  15. Papilli0n

    Acey, You remind me of a good friend of mine.
    Frugal as the day is long! She too would talk
    talk about the silliness of whatever. WHEN,
    after all that she’d tell me the price. YEP! I
    knew it, she was a tightwad that wouldn’t do
    anything if it cost more than a dollar or two
    and that had to come with a coupon. Her
    whole life is centered around ways to save
    money. Wow, left her standing! There is
    so much more to life than saving a few dollars.
    Friends in nursing school are humans who like
    you were blessed enough to be born on this
    planet Earth….you should have enjoyed them
    every chance possible. Shame on you.

  16. Ani Burr Scrubs Blogger

    @ papilli0n – times are tough, and maybe something that’s important to you isn’t as important to someone else. we have people in our class who are just in different places in their lives and don’t see the need, and that’s cool, that’s their choice. just like it was yours to go to your ceremony and pay for it.

  17. Ani, you and I are in the same boat. I’m on the planning committee and have no idea where to even start! I posted a discussion on our med surg class page, and all I’ve gotten so far for suggestions is to have the thing in the gym. I asked how much everyone was willing to spend, what they wanted for refreshments, what they wanted to wear, and more, but not much help from them! It’s frustrating because I will be glad to plan the ceremony with no input, but then it won’t be OURS. And they will surely be whining when it wasn’t what they wanted! You and I need to compare notes!

  18. SDBSN RN

    I have to agree with Peggy. I do not plan on going to our school’s pinning ceremony for several reasons. 1) Although our school has a “regional” center where I attended all classes–(and is a 2+ hour drive from the main campus)—the pinning ceremony will be held on the main campus. Mid-afternoon on a Friday! 2) I do not feel “right” about asking my son or my close friends to take the day off of work to drive such a long distance. (They are throwing a party for me that weekend, instead.) 3) After pinning, we will still have a 7 week residency portion to complete and MUST pass the Kaplan NCLEX test prior to receiving our BSN. If you don’t pass Kaplan, they will “hold” the degree until you do. Which means putting off the boards until the school believes you can pass “the Kaplan” way.

    Mandatory attendance at the pinning ceremony is required. However, going to get “pinned” prior to completing the degree seems silly to me. Being mandated to drive 2+ hours to be at a ceremony where none of my family or friends will be present to “share it” with me is even worse.

    Sometimes, I think my school “forgets” who the client is and that we paid $40K for the degree. If the ceremony was held locally, I’d probably go. Otherwise, it seems to me that it’s like having a huge wedding without any loved ones present to share in the joy and celebration. Mandated or not…I’m not paying $50 to attend. It’s not like they can withhold my degree! Like Peggy, I’d rather celebrate with my family and friends. Perhaps, I’ll go get a massage and my hair colored!

    • SDBSN RN

      I was agreeing with Acey’s comment–but misread the posting titles and wrote “Peggy”. Sorry for any confusion!