"Nursing is a calling, a lifestyle, a way of living" - that is the beginning sentence of the Nightingale tribute ceremony performed by the Hi-Line Nurses Honor Guard. The honor guard was created in 2018 and its purpose is to honor nurses who have passed away with a five-minute ceremony.
Thirteen services have been performed since the inception of the group in 2018. There are three nursing honor guards in the state of Montana - one each in Kalispell, Great Falls, and Havre.
I talked with with Sue Swan, one of the three coordinators located in Havre.
Swan trained as a nurse in the state of New York and graduated in 1965. Since graduating she has worked several nursing jobs and helps the community as much as she can.
Swan has helped coordinate the Hi-line Nurses Honor Guard since its inception and explains its purpose: “It’s a ceremony that is very much like what they do for policeman or fireman. It not only honors the deceased nurse, but the profession as well”.
The tribute is performed during a funeral or memorial service. It is comprised of two to four nurses wearing traditional white uniforms, nursing caps, and capes. A Florence Nightingale lamp is lit and given to the family members after the service, and a white rose is placed on the casket or urn.
Dana Seidel is a nurse and a member of the Hi-line Nurses Honor Guard. She has performed the service as well as watched the service firsthand when her mother, a nurse, passed away.
“I became a nurse due to my mom. Nursing was really a piece of who she was, so to see the honor guard up there, I thought she would love this if she's watching, she would think this is a great honor to her," she explained.
At the end of the service the candle is blown out and the final words are read: “You are hereby relieved of duty. Your shift is done.”
If you would like to have a service performed within a 50-mile radius of Havre or if you are a nurse that would like to get an honor guard started in your community you can call Sue at 406-265-5703, or check out their Facebook group.
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