Earning my stripes



After a decidedly ugly week on many fronts, I am happy to announce that I’m ending it on a very high note.  While I wasn’t expecting to be able to get my rapid results for my Nursing Board Examination (NCLEX) until Monday or even Tuesday, they released this afternoon, and I have (unofficially) become a Registered Nurse.

The nursing cap is no longer worn for sanitary reasons.  It also became problematic when men really started entering the field.  I wish we still wore them for graduations, pinnings, etc.  I’m the kind of person who appreciates a physical representation of accomplishment.  I grew up on Cherry Ames novels and wanted my cape and cap.  Fortunately for me, the history of the cap is that it’s hand made anyway, so I can make one  for my own pleasure.  I’ll probably never wear the darned thing, but I want it anyway.

There’s no one standard for nursing caps, but there is a fairly pervasive tradition that only registered nurses wear a single wide black velvet ribbon band on their caps.  Tradition says it is a show of mourning for Florence Nightingale.  It varied from school to school, but that element is pretty common.  It was a symbol of achievement, of respect, and of responsibility.  Nursing students got their caps early on in their schooling, but that wide black band was the culmination of all of their efforts.

There will be more stripes to earn, metaphorically speaking, once I’m in a patient care role and learn all the things about nursing they don’t teach you in school.  That doesn’t make THIS stripe any less meaningful.

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3 Responses to Earning my stripes

  1. Agatha Silverdragon says:

    In the associate section of my nursing education the “Capping Ceremony” took place after completion of the first year. My cap actually looked a great deal like the one you have pictured but the band was red, not black. I’ll have to find a picture of myself in it. . .if I can still find the darn thing. The cap is long gone. Yes, sanitary reasons did come into play for retiring the nursing cap from active use. I also think nurses themselves simply started rebelling. Those bloody things are da*&%ed hard to keep on top of your head! I do miss white uniforms actually. I used to threaten every year when Nurses Week came around to wear full regalia: Nursing cap, white hose, white nursing shoes, and white, starched with 3/4 sleeves. . .just to frighten our medical residents. I wish now I had carried through on that one! The old docs would have been tickled. Oh, and don’t forget. . . get that hair off your collar!

  2. theantichick says:

    Ugh. I couldn’t keep a white TOP clean and stain-free for two years… I don’t know how I’d manage with a white on white ensemble!

  3. shayintx says:

    When I graduated from Practical Nursing School in 1993 I fought the nursing cap battle… we were the first class in the history of our school to NOT wear the cap. I was very upset, I had dreamed of wearing that hat since forever! The director of nursing (an old battle axe), told me that nursing caps had went the way of ruffles on dresses. I said “Wait just a minute, I was married last year in a wedding dress that was ruffle upon ruffle from the waist down”!! She laughed at me!! I even tried the argument that everyone from cooks, to painters are wearing white, but they can’t wear that hat… she didn’t buy it! Very soon after graduation, nurses started wearing every color of scrub under the sun. Let me tell you, I love my scrubs, and I’m ever so glad that I can choose to wear colors!! My favorites are dark blue and black pants with beautiful matching colorful print tops. May the nursing cap continue to be a symbol of our awesome profession!!

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