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Nightingale Pledge Role, Function and Purpose – Nursing


Nursing field has undertaken a great deal of development in the past few decades. These developments have also accounted for the change in policy and procedures. Despite the fact that these developments have undertaken a nominal change, the Hippocratic Oath remains as the same for the field of nursing because of its higher relevancy with the concepts and postulates of the field of nursing. This paper accounts for definition, discussion, purpose, ethical implementation, limitations and debate concerning the Nightingale Pledge.

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Nightingale Pledge

The Nightingale Pledge remains as one of the most significant aspect of nursing history. Herein, it should be noted that the Nightingale Pledge is a Hippocratic Oath or a statement that nurses utter in order to prove their sincerity with their profession. Nurses undertake promise in front of the experiences practitioners that they would abide by the rules and regulations of nursing care. In addition, by taking the Nightingale Pledge, nurses confirm that they will avoid any act that will be mischievous (Veatch, 2000).

It would not be incorrect to state that there are two versions of Nightingale pledge. The reason behind the introduction of another version of the pledge was development in the role and function of a nurse. In other words, the Nightingale pledge made it evident that nurses were expanding the scope of the welfare support that they were destined to provide their patients (O’Brien, 2002).

As a matter of fact, the Nightingale Pledge was named after Florence Nightingale who has proven to be a great contributor within the field of nursing. The Pledge was introduced in the year of 1893 by Lystra Gretter. Other than Gretter, the Committee for the Farrand Training School of Nurses also played their respective role in implementing this Pledge as a compulsory aspect of nursing field. Gretter was greatly fond of the services and aspiration of Florence Nightingale for which she had to provide the name of oath after her name (Russell & Cohn, 2012).

Historical Role, Function and Purpose

According to the study of Veatch (2000), it was marked that the Nightingale Pledge was written more than hundred years ago. The reason of implementing the Pledge as an honorable oath for the nurses was to make sure that the ideal nurse is created in front of all so that they can follow the ethical grounds of the field of nursing (Veatch, 2000).

It is due to the Nightingale Pledge that more and more issues pertaining to the field were easily addressed. In addition, the aspects of confidentiality were also addressed in the Nightingale Pledge. The fact remains that the modern application of the Pledge remains an anachronism, as stated by Veatch (2000), because of its nature of being a presentation of relationship between healthcare practitioners (Veatch, 2000).

Let us now look at the prominent functions of the Nightingale Pledge for which it has gain its significance in the nursing field for more than hundred years. Firstly, the Nightingale Pledge incorporates commitment (where commitment refers to the promise to undertake an action without being unfaithful. Talking about the modern era, commitment remains as one of the factors that sustain successful and fruitful relationships between individuals.

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Therefore, commitment has a high regard for people around the world. Therefore, the element of commitment makes the Nightingale Pledge as the most accurate and relevant within the field of nursing. It binds nurses to their field for a longer run with complete dedication and faith (Koff, 1990).

The second aspect that highlights the purpose or function of the Nightingale Pledge is community. It is significant to note that community is merely a group of people sharing similar goals and interests. In the religion of Christianity, it is very important for the members of the community to help each other. Specifically, neighbors have been given higher importance in this regard.

The Nightingale Pledge includes the statement of helping people in the community by being self-less. Knowing the fact that nurses are also a part of the group, they are destined to help people around them and society in general. Thus, it is can be well stated that the Nightingale Pledge includes community help as a virtue making it as a complete ethical statement of duty (Lundy & Janes, 2010).

The third most evident aspect of duty in the Nightingale Pledge is spirituality or purity. This denotes that an ideal nurse is one who is completely in relation with his or her duty of serving the suffering ones. Nursing is a field that requires the practitioners to feel the pain of patients and undertake their duty. The aspect of purity beholds the fact that every individual who tends to enter in the field of nursing must be able to feel the pain and consider their duty to serve the patients wholeheartedly. Nurses must consider it as a spiritual undertaking instead of taking it as a job instead of taking it as a job (Polit & Beck, 2012).

Ethical Benefits

The Nightingale Pledge itself is a statement of ethics for nurses which make nurses to abide by the ethical grounds of treating the patients. It could be said that every profession within a society has certain principles. Likewise, nursing profession also has a number of ethical principles that should be followed by the nurses. Therefore, the significance of ethical implementation of Nightingale Pledge is stressed over and over.

The ethical dogma of the Nightingale Pledge is that it ordains the nurses to comfort their patients zealously. In case nurses are needed to help their patients in the odd times, they should always be there for them. In the present and updated version of the Nightingale Pledge, it was marked that nurses have to overcome critical situations of the patients with advanced care techniques. The Nightingale Pledge encompasses all the virtues concerning the practice of nursing (O’Brien, 2002).


As times have changed, there are some of the limitations that have now been made associated with the Nightingale Pledge. It is noted that the language that was initially used to craft the Nightingale Pledge has now changed greatly. It is merely because new terms and expressions are used within the nursing field because of advancement in services and technology being used to help patients recover.

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Therefore, it can be well asserted that the language that was used in the Nightingale Pledge to refer to medicinal terms and concepts is no longer relevant to the field of nursing. Herein, the fact that must be noted is that the non relevance of the Nightingale Pledge is just in the case of usage of language (Koff, 1990).


It should be noted that a lot of researches have been undertaken in order to understand the nature and ethical application of Nightingale Pledge. Most of the researchers were able to find out that the ethical principles that were later postulated in the written documents of nursing field around the world had take inspiration from the Nightingale Pledge. There are interlinked aspects that are closely woven in the Nightingale Pledge that discusses and arranges all significantly important aspect of nursing and care in healthcare industry (Joel, 2010).

Among famous researchers who provided a defensive argument for Nightingale Pledge include Judith Calhoun (29). In addition, some of the critics have presented their respective claims regarding the Nightingale Pledge with great astonishment. It is merely because the oath is still applicable in the modern times. The aspects that have been well discussed in the Nightingale Pledge are in direct application of modern principles and ethics for which there is no need in making an amendment in the Nightingale Pledge (Veatch, 2000).

There were a number of arguments that were posed against Nightingale Pledge concerning the elements of nursing relevance. For instance, some of the critics claimed that there is no relevance of the Nightingale Pledge with confidence holding. However, later in the updates researches by Teresa Betts-Cobau, it was marked that there are many elements that are being fulfilled by the Nightingale Pledge. These elements include confidence holding, faithfulness to the profession, virtues etc. The defenders of the Nightingale Pledge also mark its significance by claiming it as an ethical guide for the nurses who want to excel in the field (Russell & Cohn, 2012).

Other than that, the only argument that has not been justified by those who defend the Nightingale Pledge is merely the language in which it was composed. As discussed above in the limitation section, the language used in order to refer to the aspects and concepts of nursing has become relatively old and irrelevant. However, it is also suggested that in case the language of the Nightingale Pledge is changed then it is expected that there will be a great deal of changes that will have to be made. It is also predicted that with the change of language, the meanings are more likely to change as well.


Through the above assessment, it comes to understanding that the role of the Nightingale Pledge is extremely historic in the history of nursing. It is a Hippocratic Oath that incorporated the confidential and legal grounds of nursing field. There are almost all the aspects that have been covered in the Nightingale Pledge hundred years ago. However, concern or the limitation associated with the Nightingale Pledge is its language that discusses different aspects of the nursing field and virtues of the nursing field.

It is rather suggested and concluded that the material of the Nightingale Pledge is wholesome in its written content that there is no avid need of change or modification that needs to be done. In fact, it is claimed that the Nightingale Pledge completes the nursing field and commitment that is needed to undertake the call of duty. Many researchers and nurses have themselves marked that the Nightingale Pledge is wholesome and makes them realize the need of responsibility and patient care is their utmost duty at the end of the day.


Joel, L. (2010). Kelly’s Dimensions of Professional Nursing. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.

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Koff, S. M. (1990). The Nursing Shortage and Provider Attitudes: A Political Perspective. Journal of Public Health Policy, 11(1), 62-80.

Lundy, K., & Janes, S. (2010). Community Health Nursing: Caring for the Public’s Health. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

O’Brien, M. E. (2002). Prayer in Nursing: The Spirituality of Compassionate Caregiving. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Polit, F., & Beck, T. (2012). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Russell, J., & Cohn, R. (2012). Nightingale Pledge. Chicago: Book on Demand.

Veatch, R. M. (2000). Cross-cultural Perspectives in Medical Ethics. New York: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

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