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UMass nursing juniors take oath in Nightingale Ceremony

(Katherine Mayo / Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts nursing students took their commitment to medical care to the next level on Friday, Sept. 8, by reciting the Nightingale Pledge, an oath in which they vowed to be ethical and faithful “missioner[s] of health.”

“May my life be devoted to the high ideals of the nursing profession,” the room of 79 juniors said in unison in the basement of Skinner Hall. “May my life be devoted to the high ideals of the nursing profession.”

The oath-taking was part of the Nightingale Ceremony—named after Florence Nightingale, an English social reformer considered to be the founder of modern nursing.

Launched in 2013 by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the Nightingale Ceremony provides aspiring nurses at colleges across the country  with an induction ceremony, akin to the White Coat Ceremony for aspiring doctors. Both events serve as a formal transition from students’ medical educations into their studying clinical health sciences.

This is the first year the UMass College of Nursing has put on the ceremony, and out of the 50 nursing schools and colleges chosen to receive funding to host these events, UMass was the only one selected in Massachusetts, according to a University press release.

For Mackenzie Shoff, a UMass nursing major who took the oath, an important idea behind the event was the fact that all the participating juniors acted as a united community, working toward a common, selfless goal of becoming nurses and helping people.

“Here, it very much feels like a community that’s trying to save the world at its core,” Shoff said about the UMass College of Nursing. “That’s what I love about nursing, it’s for the people.”

Having her fellow nursing peers beside her and taking the pledge alleviates some of the pressures of entering the workforce too, according to Shoff.

“I think it sets you up for success, because you’re entering this hectic environment, but you have a support system behind you,” she said.

The event’s speakers included Stephen J. Cavanagh, dean of the UMass College of Nursing, who gave the opening remarks to kick off the event. Associate Dean Donna Zucker then followed him, discussing nursing ethics.

Prior to leading the Nightingale Pledge, student ambassadors Jessica Lahaie and Amanda Poussard gave an address to their peers, in which the two aspiring nurses elaborated on the humanism required of the field.

For Heather Duggan, a communications and marketing specialist for the college of nursing, one of the main takeaways of Lahaie and Poussard’s address was the idea that patients are “not a number, but an individual.”

“You need to connect with your patients,” Duggan noted.

According to the University’s press release, “The Gold Foundation has been sponsoring White Coat Ceremonies for medical students to highlight humanism at the core of healthcare for more than 20 years, but partnered with the AACN in 2013 to begin hosting ceremonies for nurses.”

“Dr. Gold recognized medical students need to take an oath to really reflect on what it means to be a healer,” said Maeve Howett, assistant dean for undergraduate nursing education. “It’s a day to make meaningful the work they do in nursing.”

Following the Nightingale Pledge, the nursing juniors signed a book which will remain in the college to be signed by students for years to come, as part of future Nightingale ceremonies. Students also received pins with the Gold Foundation’s logo encompassed by the words “Keeping healthcare human.”

“There was a real energy in the air after they said their oath,” Duggan said.

Jackson Cote can be reached at and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.

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