Nurses will pay final tributes to comrades
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 3, 2012 1:46 PM
From left, Flo Harrington, Bonnie Gray and Louise Jinnette, members of "A Nightingales' Farewell," rehearse a ceremony to pay homage to a nurse who has passed away, as Jody Palmer, foreground, poses as a family member of the deceased.
"Mary Ann Berry, please report to duty," said retired nurse Flo Harrington.
"Mary Ann Berry, N.C. license number 12345, please report to duty," she said.
After a third attempt netted the same results, Billy Tart, a nursing instructor at Wayne Community College, said, "License 12345 is now honorably retired."
Nearly two dozen nurses flanked him, decked in dark blue capes, the right flap folded back to expose a black ribbon. One by one, they adjusted their capes back into place.
Louise Jinnette, a nurse at Wayne Memorial Hospital, extinguished the lamp she held before presenting it to a representative member of Ms. Berry's family.
The enactment was part of "A Nightingales' Farewell," a short memorial service option being introduced in the community by a cadre of current and retired nurses.
The group of volunteers will make themselves available to attend the funeral or memorial service of passing nurses to honor service in the profession.
Peggy Ballance, chairwoman of the group, is in her 23rd year as a registered nurse. She works in vascular access at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
Her interest in such a program was piqued by an article she read in RN Magazine, she said, one of the author's sentiments in particular -- "Who better deserves a final farewell than a nurse, one who dedicated her or his own life to take care of others?"
Mrs. Ballance was inspired to bring the idea to this community. When she broached the subject with some of her colleagues, the support was immediate. An introductory meeting was held in August.
"We just started with a small group because we knew we had so much to do," she said. "Within the last two months, it's grown from our core of about 8 to about 17."
The group of nurses -- representing Wayne Memorial Hospital, Wayne Community College, 3HC, Cherry and O'Berry -- has been rehearsing for the ceremony they hope will bless the families of their fellow nurses.
"We will actually start (this) month in honor of National Nurses Day," Mrs. Ballance said. "We've been putting cards at funeral homes, Kitty Askins."
The premise of the ceremony is actually quite simple, she explained.
"At the grave site, nurses line up. We'll light the Nightingale lamp," named for one of the most well-known nurses, Florence Nightingale, she said. "The nurse's name is called for duty, then the nurse's license number, and then we announce the license number is retired. The lamp is retired to the family."
Operating on a shoe-string budget, the group ordered the specially made capes, representative of an era when nurses wore crisp white caps and dark blue capes. Donations sustain the group, which offers its services free of charge, Mrs. Ballance said.
"We pay for all the stuff. We paid for the lamps, and we don't charge the family for anything," she said.
Mrs. Jinnette has more than 50 years in the profession, she said, producing her original wool cape emblazoned with "W.S.N." for Wilson School of Nursing. She began her career in 1961 and has worked on the medical floor at Wayne Memorial Hospital for 35 years.
"I think nurses are special," she said. "(This is) a really good way to honor them. Plus it's like a bond for the nurses, too."
Bonnie Gray, a nursing instructor at Wayne Community College, called "A Nightingales' Farewell" a "nice tribute" to those who have dedicated their lives to serving the needs of others.
"We give a lot of ourselves every day to this profession," she said. "To remember that at the end is very important.
"All of these nurses have contributed to their profession to our communities in so many different ways and it's just very befitting that they be recognized in saying goodbye when the time comes."
Membership in "A Nightingales' Farewell" is open to any nurse, whether currently employed or retired, Mrs. Ballance said.
For more information about participating or requesting services, call 919-920-0277, 738-3406 or 580-4670.