Pinning Ceremony marks rite of passage for graduating nursing students
“Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses … we must be learning all of our lives.”
Minutes after completing his final exam, Nainoa Gaspar-Takahashi ’22 began to muse about his remarks for the time-honored Nursing Pinning Ceremony, a rite of passage for soon-to-be graduates or graduating Nursing School students.
“After all the obstacles, especially when COVID happened, I can finally see the end of the tunnel,” says Gaspar-Takashi, referring to the ritual ceremony. “It has been a long journey for me and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.”
A total of 49 nursing students received their stoles and pins during the ceremony, which occurs at the end of a student’s program in a school of nursing, and signifies the completion of this level of education and an official initiation into the profession.
Gaspar-Takahashi points out that this official observance is different from the commencement that he will participate in May 2023, adding that many of his peers share the opinion that this ritual is even more significant for them. For the Kaneohe native, the Pinning Ceremony symbolizes that a student is now formally a member of the sisterhood and brotherhood of nurses, and is ready to serve the community as a healthcare professional.
“Nursing has often been referred to as a ‘calling’ and this Pinning Ceremony is based on the history of this respected profession,” Gaspar-Takashi says. “I now feel like I’m now on the frontline of helping people get better.”
In Chaminade’s School of Nursing and Health Professionals version of the Pinning Ceremony, it’s a student’s family member—and not faculty like at some celebrations at other schools—who presents the Chaminade-blue stole and offers words of congratulations.
“It’s very meaningful for the student to have a parent or loved one place the stole around their neck,” says School of Nursing and Health Professions Dean, Rhoberta Haley, Ph.D. “My late mom was a nurse and when she attended my Pinning Ceremony, she wore hers. It’s very symbolic and we take great pride in our pins.”
The history of the Pinning Ceremony dates back to the 12th century when the Crusaders were cared for by the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist. When new monks entered the order, they vowed to serve the sick soldiers in a ceremony during which each monk was given a Maltese cross badge.
The modern ceremony started in the 1860s when Queen Victoria awarded Florence Nightingale the Red Cross of St. George to recognize her service as a military nurse during the Crimean War. To share the honor, Nightingale —whom many deem the founder of modern nursing—later presented medals of excellence to her brightest nursing students.
In 1916, the Pinning Ceremony became standard practice for new graduates in the United States as a way to welcome them into the profession. While once reserved for outstanding students, today it includes all students who successfully complete their nursing education.
The last time that guest speaker Bridget Lai spoke at a Pinning Ceremony was her own in May 2001. “It’s been a long time, but when I received the invitation from Dean Haley, not only was I thrilled and excited, but all the memories of that day–over 20 years ago—came rushing back to me,” said Lai, Hawaii Pacific Health’s Nursing Education Manager. “While I absolutely value my degree, the Pinning Ceremony spoke directly to me and the personal calling that I answered to become a nurse. Your pin tells the world—you can do anything, four words that have stayed with me, and grown and evolved with my professional nursing practice.”
In addition to the pinning, some ceremonies often include a candle- or lamp-lighting to symbolize the nighttime care Nightingale gave to wounded soldiers by candlelight. Graduates also recite the International Pledge for Nurses.
“We take this oath seriously,” Gaspar-Takahashi says with sincerity. “And now I look forward to being present as an employee and not a student, and making a difference in a patient’s care.”
Gaspar-Takahashi’s education, though, isn’t quite over. His next classroom will be the emergency room at Straub Medical Center, where he will be the graduate nurse before officially obtaining his Registered Nurse license.
“This nursing program instilled in us the Marianist values of service and compassion,” Gaspar-Takahashi asserts. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given. I was not only taught the nursing academy but I learned a lot about life lessons.”