Nursing Pin Collection

The Museum of Nursing History has an extensive collection of nursing pins. Each school of nursing had a unique pin as well as a cap. The capping ceremony frequently occurred following completion of the probation period. Some schools had a method to distinguish completion of “nurse’s training” by adding a stripe, pin or changing the style of the school’s cap. The school pin commonly would be received as part of the graduation ceremony. The new nurse would enter her profession proudly wearing a white uniform, cap and pin ready to devote her acquired skills to the betterment of those committed to his/her care. As with many professions the traditions become “less prominent” over time.

Nurse Pinning Tradition

The nursing pin is a symbol with a rich history dating back to the Maltese Cross. The Crusaders wore the cross as a symbol of service to Christianity. Over the centuries various symbols represented service to a ruler or to the community. As a result of Florence Nightingale’s influence, the importance of “nurses’ training” was recognized and hospitals began developing programs. The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London designed and awarded a badge with a Maltese Cross to the nurses as they completed their program.

By 1916, a ceremony awarding the badges was a tradition in England and the United States. The badge symbolized educated women who were prepared to serve the health needs of society. Eventually, each school of nursing designed and awarded a customized pin. In the United States, the first pin presented to a graduating class occurred at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, 1880. The pin featured a crane in the center for vigilance. This center relief is encircled by a band of blue for constancy, and an outer band of red for mercy and relief of suffering.

The nursing pin and accompanying ceremony represented a meaningful experience for nursing students. It symbolized the completion of educational requirements that enabled nurses to sit for the state licensure examination and then practice nursing. Attached is a picture of the Bellevue Hospital pin which is part of the Museum of Nursing History collection. The Museum of Nursing History has an extensive collection of nursing pins and can be viewed when visiting the Museum.

Reference: Mary W Rode, “The Nursing Pin: Symbol of 1,000 Years of Service

Peter Bent Brigham Nursing Pin

Peter Bent Brigham Nursing Pin

Peter Bent Brigham School of Nursing’s beautiful pin is now displayed at the museum.

The chalice is indicative of medicine. The serpent has long been famed as a symbol of wisdom and was sacred to Aesculapius, the god of medicine. It’s association with the cup is probably derived from the figure of Hygieia, the goddess of health.

Touro Infirmary
Touro Infirmary

We received a beautiful collection of items used by Carrie Gammel Radnik (1919-2012) from WWII. She graduated with a diploma from Touro Infirmary in New Orleans in 1940 and joined the U.S. Army, when the U.S. went to war. She and a friend were stationed in New Guinea. This is her nursing school pin.

St. Luke's and Children's Medical Center
St. Luke’s and Children’s Medical Center

From the collection of Caroline P. Henry. She graduated in 1946 from St. Luke’s and Children’s Medical Center, Franklin & Thompson Streets in Philadelphia.

Candy Striper
Candy Striper

We received a nurse’s candy striper pin and the ribbons she earned in high school. I think the candy striper pin is for 500 hours of volunteering. She went on to become a nurse educator and earned her PhD but you can see how much she worked in the hospital before nursing school.

Philadelphia General Hospital
Philadelphia General Hospital

From the niece of a 1928 graduate of Philadelphia General Hospital (PGH) School of Nursing. I consulted the Double Frills book on PGH history, the author states that the double frill cap remained the same but “The graduate pin was a different matter. Each class had designed its own with varying results.”