Nurse Honor Guard Provides "Final Call of Duty' for Caregivers

posted on Tuesday, December 6, 2022 in Health Connections articles

A candleholder lantern has become an international symbol of nursing, an image associated with pioneer nurse Florence Nightingale. Just as a spark from such a candle can ignite a flame, one idea can blossom into a flourishing plan.

When long-time Spencer Hospital nurse Colette Rossiter shared information she had seen regarding Nurse Honor Guards with the hospital’s Shared Governance Nursing Image Council, the council researched the program to learn more.   With program details in hand, council members then engaged seasoned nurses Linda O’Clair of Avera Medical Group Spencer and retired Spencer Hospital nurse Donna Krogman who embraced developing and providing coordination for a local Nightingale’s Nurse Honor Guard.

Krogman explained the program: “When a nursing professional who has dedicated his or her life to caring for others passes away, the Nightingale’s Nurse Honor Guard is available to provide a special tribute to that dedicated nurse.”

O’Clair went on to share that family members can request participation of the Nightingales Nurse Honor Guard and can chose the level of involvement they’d like.

“For each nurse being honored, we present the family with a symbolic lamp and a rose,” O’Clair said. “And for some families, just having those keepsakes is enough. However, oftentimes loved ones appreciate attendance by Nightingale Nurse Honor Guard representatives. We make quite an impression in our nursing caps and white uniforms topped with navy and red capes.”

O’Clair said in addition to attendance, the honor guard can also be part of the memorial service. The Nightingale pledge and a nursing sonnet may be read during the service. Also, guard members can perform a short ceremony known as the “Final Call to Duty.” During this time, the Nightingale lamp is lit in the nurse’s honor, and the nurse’s name is called out with a request to report to duty. After the third and final call of the nurse’s name, that dedicated caregiver is announced as being retired, knowing their tasks are complete and their duty  accomplished. Afterwards, the lamp’s flame is extinguished.

“Linda and I are very honored to be part of establishing our local Nightingale’s Nurse Honor Guard,” Krogman said. “We’ve received great enthusiasm by other nurses, both active and retired, who are eager to also participate.”

If a northwest Iowa family would like to contact the Nightingales to assist with a memorial service, they can reach out to either Krogman or O’Clair. Also, local nursing professionals who wish to make themselves available to participate in the honor guard can contact the pair.  Donna can be reached at (712) 363-6718 or by email at Linda’s contact information is (712) 260-7415 or

Both women expressed appreciation to the Spencer Regional Healthcare Foundation for funding support to enable them to purchase the caps and capes, along with other supplies. Donations have also been received from Avera Medical Group Spencer and private donors to help support ongoing expenses. Anyone wishing to contribute towards the local Nightingales Nurse Honor Guard can contact Sara Taylor, executive director of the Foundation, at (712) 264-6226 or by email at

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