Friday, February 29, 2008

Text: The Controversy

This article explores and addresses the issues and the main concern with the Nightingale Pledge.

The Nightingale Pledge, written by Lystra Gretter in 1983, is the nurses' way of expressing their intentions of fulfilling their responsibilities. It is an oath recited by graduating student nurses. Because Florence Nightingale is the founder of modern nursing, Gretter named the pledge after her as a sign of respect. This pledge has been the symbol of a nurse's values (American Nurses Association, 2006). In reciting this, a nurse commits to “faithfully practice” her profession and to practice proper ethical values (Domrose, 2001). However, the nursing community has been debating this oath, arguing about its importance to nursing.

The controversies surrounding the Nightingale Pledge must be resolved because this issue compromises each nurse's integrity. If not addressed, it can negatively affect the reputation of nursing as a profession. It also has an undeniable importance because many nursing organizations have adopted its principles in their own code of ethics (American Nurses Association, 2006).

Some consider oath taking as a symbol of a person's professionalism and promise of abiding by the ethical rules (V. A. B., 1910); therefore, some claim that it is crucial for all licensed workers to make a pledge to assure the public that they are dedicated and committed to serve and to help those who are suffering. Nursing, consequently, needs a pledge because it is a profession that relies on a nurse's personal values. The goal of this pledge is to be the foundation that guides a nurse's personal values (Fry & Veatch, 2005).

Because of the ambiguities of the words in the Nightingale pledge, many nurses are requesting that the pledge be updated to fit the modern times (Demrose, 2001). For example, many nurses wonder about the meaning of “purity,” which can be interpreted in many ways. Nevertheless, some feel that preserving its original words is representative of a nurse’s loyalty to the profession, to the patients and to the public (Demrose, 2001).

As a result of these requests to have it updated, many nursing schools are either dropping or altering it to suit their graduation ceremonies (Domrose, 2001). This poses two new issues: the nurses' obligation to make a pledge and to recite the same pledge. As health-care providers, nurses need to assure the public that they are competent of helping and capable of serving. Likewise, nurses also need to recite the same version of the pledge to endorse the same interpretation. If the pledge is altered and if different versions exist, nurses can interpret their roles differently, causing unnecessary conflicts and stresses among nurses.

Some also doubt Florence Nightingale's qualifications that make her deserving of this honor (McBurney &Filoromo, 1994). Although she is the founder of modern nursing, Nightingale exemplified undesirable qualities. For example, Nightingale failed to allow Mary Seacole, a mixed race British nurse, to work in her hospital during the Crimean War (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1999). This refusal suggests that, perhaps, she is not as deserving of this grand recognition as once was thought.

The Nightingale pledge is currently posing problems within the nursing community because of its history and words. Although it has an undeniable influence in nursing, it is a problem. To maintain nursing's reputation, this issue must be immediately and carefully addressed. The nursing community must find a solution that will preserve the original beauty of the pledge while resolving its ethical conflicts.