Florence Nightingale pledge – out of date?

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I recently came across the Florence Nightingale pledge, the one I took 35 years ago when I graduated from a hospital-based diploma nursing program. When reading it on the eve of the year 2010, it occurs to me that it needs to be updated to better reflect where nursing practice is today.  Here’s the original composed by Lystra Gretter, an instructor of nursing at the old Harper Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and was first used by its graduating class in the spring of 1893. It is an adaptation of the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians : “I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.” The pledge is still widely used at nursing graduation/pinning ceremonies.


Here’s my updated version: “I solemnly pledge myself  before God and in the presence of this assembly, to live my life with integrity and to practice my profession faithfully. With dedication will I endeavor to uphold the ethical, scientific, and legal standards of my profession, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”


What say you – sacrilege or high-time? Perhaps we need something new entirely.  Any takers?

19 thoughts on “Florence Nightingale pledge – out of date?”

  1. The updated version sounds great! I graduated in 2000 from a degree program. We weren’t ‘required’ to take any sort of pledge and on reflection, this may prove to be a detriment to our profession. To take a pledge such as this bestows honor on the profession that seems to be lacking these days. The public, though they say they honor and appreciate nurses, seem to take them for granted and that may be because we take our own selves for granted. Nursing has become very task oriented, especially in acute care, that it’s easy to forget this deeper importance of why we are doing what we are doing. Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. I totally agree! The days of bowing and scraping before the physician are over. They need us and we need them. We are a team working for the betterment of the health of all we serve. We have been stepped on, over, and pushed down at various stages of my own 38 year tenure. We are, however, professionals with intellegiance and unique gifts to offer. Thanks for bringing this topic up.

  3. I graduated in May 2008, and this is the pledge we took. (I have it, with my nursing pin attached, up on my wall)

    “I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to faithfully practice my profession of nursing. I will do all in my power to make and maintain the highest standards and practices of my profession.

    I will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping in the practice of my calling. I will assist the physician in his work and will devote myself to the welfare of my patients, my family, and my community.

    I will endeavor to fulfill my rights and privileges as a good citizen and take my share of responsibility in promoting the health and welfare of the community.

    I will constantly endeavor to increase my knowledge and skills in nursing and to use them wisely. I will zealously seek to nurse those that are ill wherever they may be and whenever they are in needs.

    I will be active in assisting others in safeguarding and promoting the health and happiness of mankind.”

    I like the emphasis placed on knowledge and community. With all the extra things, the bit about assisting the physician is only a small part of the huge thing we do as nurses. 🙂

  4. I have always felt that the Florence Nightengale pledge had a Victorian aire to it. The version you propose is fantastic and is definitely more timeless. However, there is something missing from it, but I have not figured out what that might be. Would need to think about it for awhile or brainstorm with someone.

    I found what you wrote and the 3 comments all to be very interesting. You graduated from a diploma program and said the original pledge; Kim said a different pledge upon graduation; and Sue graduated from a degree program and did not say any pledge at all. This is a perfect demostration of the many & varied ways nurses receive their training.

  5. Kim, is there a specific name for that pledge? I love it, think I may want to use it at my pinning ceremony next month

  6. Unfortunately, there isn’t a special name for the pledge I took.

    The card it’s on just says “Nursing Pledge” under my school’s name. Maybe it’s specific to Evergreen Valley College… Now I’m curious who wrote it 🙂

    I reread the pledge every now and then when I’ve had a particularly bad day at work. Oddly enough, it helps sometimes.

  7. We should always remember Florences’ oath ,however nursing has come a long way since the day of the bedpan and lamp.i have been a nurse for 35 years and many a late night in a 60 bed ER as charge with one doc ,new residents and helicopters hovering have saved many a life and heard well what did you need me for? To sign the orders!Nurses,doctors and all of us make the health care team without each of us medicine would not be what it is .A passion,a desire and a need to help in ways most can’t .I believe that the oath should be updated but never forgotten from the woman who started it all.

  8. I graduated from an ADN program in 1988; we recited the pledge as it was orginally drafted. I had difficulty then stating “to aid the physician in his work”. Our profession needs to embrace the concept that we are indeed a profession and not simply a “resource” for the physician (I am sure that the millions of female physicians would love to see the ‘his’ patients be revised as well; another discussion, perhaps)? Orginally drafted in 1893; it is indeed outdated!
    As an independent practitioner of this scientic evidenced based profession for 22 years; I would love to see an evolution of not only this pledge, but the general lack of understanding of the skills, knowledge, critical thinking ability, and accountability each of us own as a nurse. I believe we can embrace our past without continuing to be defined by it…the best physicians are the caring ones; however, I don’t recall ever seeing one picture of a physician with angel wings or halos.
    One final thought, as I prepare to enter my MSN program this fall — join your professional organizations and actively embrace our professional status and refuse to be seen as only a ‘servant, hand-maiden, angel, etc.’ It’s up to us to change how we are perceived. Thanks for the interesting comments….

  9. Out dates are foundations for updates.My opinion is for the revision of the Nightingale Oath in order for nurses to be contemporary, and autonomous.The 21st century technological explosion has seen nursing queuing up with NURSING -Informatics, therefore nurses must more forward while respecting the predecessors of 1893 initiative (L.Gretta).I strongly recommend that this phrase “I endeavor to aid the physician in his work”, be completely REMOVED from the oath.I’ve worked for 23years as a clinical, community nurse and Nurse-Educator. In 2 months I’ll graduate with a Masters in Nursing Education. (Isabella from Cameroon).God Bless Nurses.

  10. Thank you for that interesting discussion on updating the FN pledge. Florence Nightingale had an amazing impact that has continued to inspire tens of millions of people around the world. To check out the article “Florence Nightingale: Mother of Nursing”, click on http://bit.ly/agInhG

  11. I’m not sure who you are exactly, but I’d love to know. Our schools (several of the City Colleges of Chicago) had our pinning ceremony today, and we used YOUR version of the pledge! I just googled it to find out who revised it and found this page.

  12. You are missing the point of using the original pledge. I graduated in 2007 and we read the Florence Nightingale version. Even nursing is changing the reason behind it and why we choose to do it stays the same.

  13. By the way, the pledge was not written by Florence Nightingale. It was written by Lystra Getter, a nursing instructor in Detroit in 1893.

  14. Our Nursing Class used the old version of the Florence Nightingale oath in 1981. We also held a lighted lantern while we said the oath. I like the new oath and hope ALL nurses take this oath upon graduation. Todays new nurses DO NOT know any thing about the oath or its importance as NURSE PROFESSIONALS.

  15. Now if you would just remove the god part, it wouldn’t discriminate against 15% or so of the public.

  16. I think that we should always honor the thoughts, words, efforts, and contributions of those who have paved the way for us. I agree that the scope of nursing practice encompasses so much more now than it did back in Florence Nightingale’s day, but the foundational message is still the same (live in purity, practice faithfully, do no harm, elevate standards, keep confidences, be loyal, etc). We shouldn’t edit her words, just as we shouldn’t edit those of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr. Each of these amazing individuals based their lifes’ work on their belief in God and it was their faith that made them who they were, and allowed them to pursue greatness in their lives. We can’t edit that out of someone’s history. I think we should leave it alone and let her own words speak loudly to us throughout the passage of time. I don’t see why each graduating class couldn’t create a pledge, or something unique of their own to present in addition to that, if they wanted to.

  17. Actually, the original pledge goes like this:

    “I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly to pass my life in purity and to practise my profession faithfully.
    I shall abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and shall not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug.
    I shall do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling.
    I shall be loyal to my work and devoted towards the welfare of those committed to my care.”

    Nothing about the physician.

    Tonight, at my pinning ceremony, we will be uttering the new, politically correct pledge, which I won’t bother to type here, as I find it soul-less. As a friend says, it sounds like something invented by a committee somewhere…and I’m sure it was.

  18. Sorry, I was wrong. The physician is mentioned. This is what happens when you choose Wikipedia over the ANA first!

    In any case, the pledge I will say tonight is not to my liking.

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