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Nurse Honor Guard established locally
Nurse Honor Guard3.jpg
A Nurse Honor Guard is now available in Warren County. Pictured, from left, are Shauna Samuel (vice president), Dawn Wanamaker, Heather George, Judy Sharpe, Jackie Cabell, Deborah Womack, Jimmie Webb, Tracie Panter, Reba Bond, Helen Owens, Jessica Bost, Brenda Smith, Kay Childers and Lesia Donalson (president). - photo by Lisa Hobbs

Nursing is a nurturing, uplifting profession of people who have chosen to spend their careers taking care of others. A new program offers to honor that life with a final display of gratitude and remembrance. 

A Nurse Honor Guard has been established in Warren County. Group members, volunteers who are active, and retired nurses, offer free ceremonial honors at funerals for families who lose a loved one in the nursing profession. 

Fostering the local effort are organization president Lesia Donalson and vice president Shauna Samuel. 

“This is something we needed here,” said Donalson. “We need to honor our nurses when they pass. They deserve it.”

At a family’s request, members of the Nurse Honor Guard will attend the funeral wearing standardized historical nursing attire of cap, cape, and white uniform. 

The ceremonial activity can consist of “Standing Watch” over the loved one during the visitation prior to the funeral/ memorial service or simply providing a presence at the visitation.

During the service a tribute is read, acknowledging their career as a nurse, and releasing the loved one of their nursing duties. The ceremony concludes with the reading of “A Nurses Prayer,” a presentation of a Florence Nightingale Lamp to the family, and placement of a white rose on the nurse’s casket to signify their devotion to the nursing profession.

Donalson said no one knows a nurse’s struggles better than a colleague. 

“We understand the struggles that we’ve all gone through, from nursing school to the first day on the job to the last day on the job and all the days in between. We understand the sacrifices that we make. This is our way of saying that we understand that you made those sacrifices and we honor you for your skills, your knowledge, your compassion and all those sacrifices.”

The group’s first monthly meeting was held in April. Its inaugural funeral was July 14, that of Paula Porter, 85, a retired registered nurse who worked at Faulkner Springs Hospital, Warren County General Hospital and then River Park Hospital.

“I think most of us worked with her at one time or another,” said Samuel. “Paula was my charge nurse when I got out of nursing school. It was an honor to recognize her hard work and dedication in the nursing field and the care and devotion she gave patients. She’s why we felt it was important to start this charter. She, and all nurses, need to be acknowledged.”

All nurses go through a pinning ceremony and reciting of Florence Nightingale pledge to signify their devotion to the nursing field. The funeral ceremony is meant to release them from the oath and signify that their earthly nursing duties are complete, says Samuel. 


A Nurse’s Prayer

“Give me strength and wisdom when others need my touch;

A soothing word to speak to the, their hearts yearn for so much.

Give me joy and laughter, to lift a weary soul;

Pour in me compassion to make the broken whole.

Give me gentle healing hands, for those placed in my care;

A blessing to those who need me, this is a Nurse’s Prayer.” 

Along with Donalson and Samuel, the Warren County chapter currently has the following members: Jackie Cabell, Tracie Panter, Brenda Smith, Kay Childers, Reba Bond, Helen Owens, Jimmie Webb, Jessica Bost, Judy Sharpe, Dawn Wanamaker, Deborah Womack, Heather George, Deborah Harrison, Elisha Locke, Kay Starr, Devonya King, Christy Medley, Olivia Myers, Janice Sherrill and Christy Medley. 

“This is a noble and honorable thing to do: to acknowledge our colleagues that have passed on,” said Donalson. “It takes very little commitment, but it’s amazingly rewarding.” 

Male nurses are welcome in the nurse guard. They are not required to wear the historical cap, gown and dress. 

Family members of nurses who wish to have their loved one’s funeral attended to by guard members can do so on Facebook. Additionally, brochures have been printed, courtesy of Ascension Saint Thomas River Park Hospital, and will be distributed to local funeral homes. Brochures will have additional contact information. 

There is a financial cost to providing families with a Florence Nightingale Lamp. The organization is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit. Donations are tax-deductible.

Monthly meetings of the Warren County Nurse Honor Guard are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are held at McMinnville Church of God on Locust Street. Prospective new members can contact the group on Facebook.