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Herzing University

Jessica Neddersen

What is the Nightingale Pledge?

While you may have heard of the Hippocratic oath for doctors, but did you know that there is also an oath for nurses?

While you may have heard of the Hippocratic oath, which is a pledge physicians take in which they vow to treat the ill to the best of their ability, preserve patient privacy, prevent disease and more, did you know that there is also an oath for nurses?

What is the Nightingale Pledge?

The Nightingale Pledge is a modified version of the Hippocratic oath specifically for nurses. It was created by nursing pioneer Lystra Gretter and a Committee for the Farrand Training School for Nurses in Detroit in 1893. According to the American Nurses Association, the pledge was named after Florence Nightingale, who is considered the founder of modern nursing.

In the pledge, nurses promise to uphold the Hippocratic oath, do no harm, practice discretion and be dedicated to their work as a nurse. Three versions of the pledge have been used by nurses:

The Original 1893 Pledge: 

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. 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.

The Updated 1935 Pledge:

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. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will 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. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and as a 'missioner of health' I will dedicate myself to devoted service to human welfare.

Modern Practical Nurse Pledge:

While the pledge hasn’t drastically changed, many nursing schools that still use the Nightingale Pledge have made updates to the earlier versions. One change was made specifically to remove the phrase, “loyal to physicians” to promote more independence in the nursing profession.

Before God and those assembled here, I solemnly pledge; To adhere to the code of ethics of the nursing profession; To co-operate faithfully with the other members of the nursing team and to carry out faithfully and to the best of my ability the instructions of the physician or the nurse who may be assigned to supervise my work; I will not do anything evil or malicious, and I will not knowingly give any harmful drug or assist in malpractice. I will not reveal any confidential information that may come to my knowledge in the course of my work. And I pledge myself to do all in my power to raise the standards and prestige of practical nursing; May my life be devoted to service and to the high ideals of the nursing profession. 

When is the Nightingale Pledge used? 

The Nightingale Pledge is recited at a nursing pinning ceremony, which is separate from a graduation ceremony, and usually conducted before graduates sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The ceremony is a symbolic transition for nursing students as they end their studies and begin their careers as a nurse. Although the Nightingale Pledge applies to all nurses, it is not used anywhere outside of the United States.

Why is it important?

While some nursing schools have phased out the Nightingale Pledge and pinning ceremony, Herzing University still upholds these traditions. A graduation ceremony carries a lot of pomp and circumstance, but the pinning ceremony is a special opportunity for nurses to celebrate their achievements and highlight the start of their nursing career. Giving the pledge publicly before peers, family and friends signifies the importance of the role and how seriously graduates will take their job as a nurse.

Are you interested in becoming a nurse?

Do you want to make a difference? Check out Herzing’s nursing pathways:

Learn More About Our Nursing Programs

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Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography and degree field, affect career outcomes. Herzing does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salary.

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