Nursing Pin Carries Long Tradition

Posted: May 18, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Colleen Kearney Rich

Some of the graduates at the College of Health and Human Services convocation today will be taking part in a long-standing and symbolic tradition.

When graduates from the college’s School of Nursing are pinned during the ceremony, they will not only be recognizing a tradition in the nursing profession that dates back to 1880 and the first Nightingale School of Nursing in the United States, they will also be celebrating 30 years of nursing education at Mason. The pinning is meant to represent the threshold of a student’s professional career and is expected to be worn on the nursing uniform.

“The wearing of the pin is not as universal as it once was,” says Christena Langley, acting associate dean and director of the School of Nursing. “Nurses used to proudly display their pins because it let people know where they received their education. Now many nurses wear scrubs and there are concerns about [the pin] getting lost or damaged.”

The George Mason University School of Nursing pin was designed by alumna Joyce Gledhill, BS ’77, MSN ’88, a member of one of the first classes to graduate from the nursing program.

Nursing pin design
An embroidery of the School of Nursing pin.
Photo by Colleen Kearney Rich

The pin displays four symbols surrounded by a wreath of laurel. The open book on the pin represents knowledge, the torch symbolizes eternal light, the caduceus with an “N” for nursing represents the health care professions, and the lamp symbolizes Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern-day nursing.

The words corpus sanare, “to heal the body,” and animan salvare, “to free the soul,” form a cross within the pin and separate the symbols.

Gledhill majored in commercial art briefly before finding her way to Mason and a career in nursing. She rendered her design for the pin in watercolor, a painting that remains with the school to this day. “I was so pleased that they decided to choose it,” she says of her design.

In 1988 when she was receiving her master’s degree, Gledhill was surprised to hear her name mentioned during the convocation ceremony. “I knew that they were using the pin for the nursing graduates, but I had no idea they were giving me credit publicly for the design.”

Gledhill now resides in Arvada, Colo., where she works for Denver Health. She has put her nursing degrees to work and enjoyed a long and productive career that has included employment with Inova Health System, Kaiser Permanente and even the Central Intelligence Agency, where she was an occupational health nurse.

Memories of her own pinning ceremony and the early years of the nursing program are happy ones for Gledhill. “We were a small group, but we were enthusiastic,” she says. “There were only seven instructors at the time, including Dr. [Evelyn] Cohelan [first chair of Mason’s Department of Nursing]. She was always right there and knew everyone’s name.”

“It is very representative of our origins,” says Langley of the pin. “Those early students were very committed to the nursing program and the university and eager to wear those pins that showed they were from Mason. It is an important part of our heritage.”

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