Editor’s note: This post by Lorita Renfro, BSN, RN, proposes an updated version of the Nightingale Pledge. The author is a clinical nursing instructor in the ADN/VN programs at Kaplan College in San Diego and is currently working toward an MSN with an educational focus. Let Lorita know what you think. Would your version differ in any way?

Florence Nightingale in Crimean War, from Wikipedia Commons

As the science of nursing evolves, one aspect of nursing remains the same: the art. We see it when we are inspired to do the best for our patients, develop higher standards, and provide care from our hearts. This inspiration is the basis of all good nursing practice.

The science of nursing is seen in the interventions that provide comfort and protect our patients from harm. In the past, this protection often meant cleaning floors and carrying bed pans. My father believed until the day he died that what I did was to “help the doctors” heal the patients.

This may still be true at times, but the science of nursing is now also represented by innovation, intuition, strength, and the responsibility of being a team member who collaborates in the delivery of care. Nursing processes have been worked and reworked to harness our independent, evidence-based contributions to patients’ healing and their adjustment to illness as well as the alleviation of their pain and suffering.

When our students have completed rigorous programs of study, we welcome them to the profession. We celebrate with the lighting of the lamp and the recitation of the Nightingale Pledge. I love the lighting of the lamps; candles evoke inspiration whenever they are lit. But the inspiration felt by new nurses on the day of graduation could be more appropriately expressed with an updated Nightingale Pledge that better represents the evolution of nursing. 

Tradition helps to inspire, but it can also hold us back. Today’s students are different in so many ways from the student who represented nursing in 1893 when the first Nightingale Pledge was written. With many second-career and second-degree students who are older, and greater numbers of men in nursing, we need to recognize that the identity of nursing has changed. Old stereotypes are finally falling as nursing is increasingly respected as an equal profession.

If our bottom line is to inspire, we are not going to be able to do it for today’s students with the words of the 1893 pledge. 

To me, the following more modern Nightingale Pledge both honors the original pledge and gives substance to a vision that represents the present, and future, of nursing. 

A Modern Nightingale Pledge

I pledge myself here, before my God and in the presence of this assembly, to practice my profession with integrity.

I will endeavor to maintain and elevate the standard of nursing, both as a science and as an art.

I wholeheartedly recognize the importance of high standards of care and of personal accountability.

I devote myself to the healing, protection, and welfare of those committed to my care.

I accept a duty to work for the improvement of health in the communities in which I live and work.

I will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping, and will respect the privacy of medical information.

I will act with compassion in ethical matters.

I will not knowingly administer or consume any harmful substance.

I commit to interdisciplinary collaboration and lifelong learning.

I fully acknowledge the seriousness of the responsibility that I accept in my calling, and the significance of this pledge that I take today.

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