New nurses take custom Anishinaabe pledge

FORT FRANCES – Some things about Florence Nightingale weren’t so great, so the nurses’ pledge named after the 19th-century caregiver was problematic.

That, in a nutshell, is the explanation for the Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI) replacing the Nightingale Pledge with a pledge tailored to its Indigenous nursing grads.

The pledge this year’s new crop of SGEI-trained nurses took at a pinning ceremony in Fort Frances was drafted to reflect Anishinaabe culture.

“The need for the custom pledge was identified by our post-secondary director, Angela Mainville,” Jana-Rae Yerxa, curriculum developer for SGEI, told NWO Newswatch.

“It was unsettling that our nursing graduates were reciting the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

“Although Nightingale is a celebrated figure in the nursing profession, the reality is that she also held racist, damaging beliefs about Indigenous peoples and dismissed our deaths as necessary for the expansion of British colonialism,” said Yerxa, a member of Couchiching First Nation.

“So, having a pledge that reflects our Anishinaabe values and acknowledges the challenging realities our nurses and Indigenous people continue to navigate in the health-care system because of the colonial histories that Nightingale supported was long overdue.”

The pledge nearly 30 graduates in the Practical Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) programs recited on June 6 was built on the seven “grandfather teachings” of humility, honesty, bravery, love, truth, wisdom and respect.

“With a full appreciation of the responsibilities I am undertaking, I pledge dabasendiziwin (humility) to listen and learn from my patients,” the pledge begins.

Yerxa said the grandfather teachings were incorporated into the pledge “because those teachings really are universal. They could be seen as universal values that fit really nicely with the nursing profession in terms of serving others.”

Rethinking the Nightingale Pledge reflects how nursing is “a lifelong journey of learning,” said Taylor Stromness, a nurse who is the institute’s associate director of health sciences.

“The pinning ceremony and pledge experience upon the completion of my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree marked a significant milestone and the start of my nursing journey,” she said.

“Since then, I have been able to continue reflecting and growing as a person, a nurse and an educator while learning from clients, community members, fellow practitioners and our future nurses.

“With the revised pledge, SGEI nursing students are provided the opportunity to commit to being safe, compassionate, ethical and culturally inclusive nurses.”

Stromness said the revised pledge has won “positive feedback from our partners at both Lakehead University and Confederation College” as well as Seven Generations colleagues and students.

She reported that one of the 19 BScN graduates – SGEI’s first cohort of BScN grads – said the new pledge “honors both the nursing profession and our region while reminding the graduates about past and present colonialism and recognizing reconciliation efforts.”

Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source