What is a Nurse Pinning Ceremony?

A nurse pinning ceremony is a tradition that is upheld by many schools to signify the completion of a nursing program. Because the road to becoming a nurse is difficult, whether it be an RN or LPN (see: What is the Difference Between an RN and LPN), the ceremony is used to show appreciation for graduates and to welcome them to the medical community. Here, you’ll be able to find out what a nurse pinning ceremony is, and what happens at one.

The History of the Nurse Pinning Ceremony

HCPro describes the pinning ceremony has a more personal induction into the medical community rather than the graduation itself. The earliest record of pinning ceremonies being used in the nursing community was during the Crusades of the 12th century. Monks participated in similar rituals with the Hospital of St. John where they agreed to treat wounded Crusaders. They were given Maltese crosses as their badges for nursing the injured soldiers. Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, also presented medals of excellence to her nursing graduates. The medals evolved into pins and by 1916, nurse pinning ceremonies were commonplace.


L.A. O’Hare from eHow states that when the ceremony begins, nurse graduates file into a room in their uniforms. In some cases, they were the white hats that were commonplace decades ago in medical settings. Instructors generally lead the line while music plays in the background. The music chosen for the ceremony is usually left to the discretion of the graduates.

The Pinning

Once the graduates have filed in, there are often speeches given by nursing instructors and students with outstanding performance in the program. Students might share of the difficulties they overcame to get to where they are. They may also thank the instructors for their hard work and dedication in working with the graduates.

Next, the actual pinning takes place. In some programs a faculty members does the pinning of all students. In others, graduates are asked to dedicate their pin to someone special in their life. When this is the case, a faculty member hands the pin to that special person and allows them to pin it on the graduate. The faculty member may also read a dedication speech, written by the student for the pinner (see: Nursing Pinning Ceremony: A Rite-of-Passage for Graduates).

Candle Lighting and Pledge

Sometimes the pinning ceremony will feature a final phase where students light candles and recite a pledge in honor of Florence Nightingale, nicknamed “lady with the lamp.” She was called this because she often worked late at night tending to patients with a lamp by her side. Lighting the candles is a representation of the flame being passed between nurses. Once the flame is lit, the Florence Nightingale pledge is recited.


Once the pinning, candle lighting process, and recitation is complete, the students that participated in the process can officially call themselves nurses. At the ending point of the nurse pinning ceremony, they are considered official members of the medical community.