ENC Nurses Honor Guard gives comfort to grieving families

Published 5:00 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2024

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National Nurses Week (May 6-May 12) aims to express gratitude toward millions of registered and licensed practical nurses for the vital role they play in the care of their patients. Members of one Eastern North Carolina organization have the distinguished privilege of paying tribute to a nurse at the end of their life. 

The Eastern North Carolina Nurses Honor Guard serves families of deceased nurses in 26 counties east of I-95 by standing guard, in traditional dress, at a funeral or memorial service. The Nightingale Tribute and Pledge are read aloud, a poem is read then followed by the Nurses Prayer and a final call of duty is made with the nurse’s name being called three times. After the third call, a nurse is released from their nursing duties. Members light a Nightingale lamp, the candle is blown out, then members present the lamp to the grieving family. This service is completely free to families as are living tributes. Living tributes are small ceremonies held at a nurse’s bedside to celebrate and honor their dedication to the profession. Living tributes are performed for nurses who are either terminally ill or in their final days. 

The Eastern North Carolina Nurses Honor Guard is one of ten guards in the state and was established in 2017. It has completed more than 100 funerals and two living tributes, according to Rachel Jordan, a retired nurse from  Bath and honor guard member. She and 47 other nurses (working or retired) volunteer their time to the guard.  

Jordan said volunteers with the honor guard receive a “reward like no other,” because of the comfort they are able to provide families. “It’s very touching,” she said. “There’s not a funeral we’ve done that hasn’t touched the family…they don’t realize it’s going to impact them like that.”  

The ENC Nurses Honor Guard partners with local funeral homes to bring awareness to the organization. Families who would like to contact the honor guard directly may call 252-531-2071 or email encnursehonorguard@yahoo.com. Nurses who would like to volunteer with the honor guard may use the same contact information.