When a nurse dies, fellow comrades are there dressed in white – paying tribute to one of their own.
It was close to their hearts.
The woman laid to rest was one of their peers. She walked the hospital halls, caring for patients, and consoling families until the day she died. It was an unexpected loss and they felt the need to honor her in life and in death.
So nurses Selina McNulty, Tracy Smith and Sally Lowrey, took their posts right beside the casket of fellow nurse Dana Record. It was March 9 three days after Record died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
Like Record, McNulty and Smith are in their 40s. Like Record, they are nurses at IU Health Arnett.
“Dana was a highly respected nurse and was loved by her patients,” said McNulty, who like Record, is also a mother. As family and friends paid tribute to Record at East Side Baptist Church, Crawfordsville, the fellow nurses solemnly stood by, dressed from head to toe in the standardized white uniform introduced by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War. Record’s funeral was the first appearance of the West Central Region Nursing Honor Guard.
The nurses had started laying groundwork for the Honor Guard months before Record’s funeral. Throughout the country, nurses from various hospitals and healthcare communities volunteer at Honor Guards. They attend services paying tribute to nurses (including retired nurses) by “keeping watch” near the casket – similar to a military tribute. Their involvement in services may also include reciting the “Nightingale Pledge,” and the “Nurse’s Prayer.” At Record’s funeral her peers set a table with a white cap, white bible and a lighted Nightingale lamp. At the close of the service, the lamp was blown out, symbolizing the end of Record’s service to a profession she loved. The candle was presented to the family along with bookmarks that included the “Nightingale Pledge” and the “Nurse’s Prayer.”
When news reached the nursing community of Record’s accident, the local Honor Guard was still in the process of securing uniforms. In less than 48 hours they were dressed in their whites and ready to pay their respects.
“When something like this happens, it affects everyone in the hospital. Even people who didn’t know Dana well, knew that she was kind-hearted and always had a smile and caring heart. We knew it was something we had to do,” said Smith. “We had a huge response from family and friends of Dana. One gentleman cried and cried and said it was so beautiful and that it reminded him of the military.” Family members returned to Records’ workplace in May, when the hospital announced “The Dana Record Preceptor of the Year Award” during National Nurses Week. The award recognizes Record’s dedication to coaching fellow nurses.
Since Records funeral, the West Central Regional Honor Guard has attended one other service for an 86-year-old retired nurse.
The three nurses have received marketing and financial support from IU Health for their efforts and are working to expand the guard and get the word out to local funeral homes about their service.
“After Dana’s funeral we said ‘nurses dedicate their time giving and nurturing,” said McNulty. “This is our turn to take care of this nurse one last time right at the end.”
— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.