Florence Nightingale… To Pledge or not to Pledge?

The Nightingale Pledge was the first nurse pledge ever made in history to empower the profession with commitment to the patients. The pledge is a resemblance of the current Hippocratic Oath. The nurses were meant to memorize the verses of the principles established by the founding mother Florence Nightingale. The verses reflect several expectations from the nurse concerning the surrounding world. The duty to serve the patients and God in the pledge is the most important one. The founding composers of the oath are recognized in the various schools, where the profession has being taught. The oath in relation to the current world has required several changes that have been brought by the modifications across the various countries. The changes have enabled a distinction of the current oath from the earlier ones. The issues concerned with the profession of nursing are changing pending on the discovery and adoption of the new ethical issues. The changes will most likely cause the field to adopt other new ideas. Florence Nightingale’s ideas were mainly to help the victim of wars, but these notions were able to be merged with a bigger platform that affects the whole world. The advantages that come with the development of the system promote new services that are human-friendly (Beauchamp & Childress, 2008).

Historic Role

Florence Nightingale’s pledge was first sung in 1893 by the graduating class of nurses. The theme of the song as an oath was meant to enhance the strength of the profession in the field among the nurses and patients. The singing was also designed to provide a feeling of belonging to the group for the nurses. The pledge also served as a foundational stone for other pledges that derived their originality from it. The pledge gives a guideline on how others are to be treated. The drafting is based on the recognition of God and humankind in their respective form. The historic set up of the oath was majorly Christiane, and, thus, ascribing to God. The need to address patients in their personal capacity has kept the changes suitable for the protection (Johnson, 2004).

Function and Purpose

The pledge has taken different functions based on its importance. The initial pledge and the current one observed by the nursing bodies in different countries offer a foundation of the ethics of the profession. Each nurse is expected to practice the given codes of ethics taught in the nursing school. The function of the pledge also acts as a reminder to all nurses of what is expected of them. The oaths stipulated in the pledges values the need to respect human life at all times. In the function of safeguarding a man’s life, ethics will be followed according to the set rules and regulations. The purpose of the oath is to maintain a profession that offers services to the humankind without any disruption. The protection of human life at all costs as mandated by the profession is only cushioned through the oaths taken by the nurses after graduating (Johnson, 2004).

Ethical Benefits and Limitations

The pledge has both ethical benefits and limitations ascribed to the profession. The ethical scenarios surround the nurse in both her personal and social capacities. When nurses are forced to adopt the feminist part of the pledge, yet they do not ascribe to such ideologies, it also posits some challenges. The devotion to God in their oaths has also raised controversial debates. Some have complained about the coercion of people to believe in one God, while they do not want to do so. The ethical benefits have entailed the safeguarding of human life at all possible costs. The issues of the financial class’s differences will not prevent a person from acquiring their services in any hospital. The profession has also allowed patients to trust their caregivers. The nurse is mandated to keep the nurse-patient confidence by both law and the oath. Such measures protect the identity of an individual in any public setting. The limitations of such oaths in the profession will bound the potential of other nurses in pursuing their career. The changes in the technology and working environment hinder a permanent position of the oath in any nursing school (Johnson, 2004).

Proponents of the Pledge

The commentators supporting the pledge have come up with reasons as to why they do so. The oath creates a competitive field that is mature in the way of providing knowledge to the nurses in the learning establishments. The steps of creating an ethical framework based a broad history in the current setup enhance professionalism. Each nurse will be able to appreciate the responsibilities accorded to him or her and protect that dignity. The supporters have gone ahead to champion some of the rules expected from a professional nurse. The support may include the passing legislation (Hockley, 2006)

Opponents of the pledge

The opponents of the pledge have criticized the ideas channeled by its proponents. Their concerns have been related to the changes of issues in the field of the past years, as compared to the early times. The changes have caused different nurses to set aside their code of ethics and promote unprofessional services for the sake of earning money. The opponents have come up with campaigns to criticize the minuscule steps taken by the professional bodies to safe the profession with respect to the public and history (Hockley, 2006).


Beauchamp, T. & Childress, J. (2008). Principles of biomedical ethics. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Hockley, J. (2006). Developing high quality end of life care in nursing homes: An action research study. Unpublished Thesis, University of Edinburgh.

Johnson, M. (2004). Real-world ethics and nursing research. NT Research, 9(4), 251-261.