Dressed in their traditional attire, white dresses, nurse caps, and blue and red capes, these nurses stand with honor to represent the devoted lifelong work of all the nurses who have passed. The Nurses Honor Guard is a nonprofit organization made up of currently employed or retired Licensed Practical Nurses, Nurse Anesthetists, Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and any nurses who hold a nursing license in good standing with the Board of Nursing. This collection of nurses volunteer their time to pay tribute to their fellow nurses and continue to serve as they have always done because of their esteemed core values: Nurture, Uplift, Respect, Service, and Empathy.
The Nurses Honor Guard pays a short, very meaningful tribute to nurses at funerals, memorial services, or any other ceremony in honor of a deceased nurse. The nurses stand guard at the casket and recite the Nightingale tribute which is similar to a military tribute that officially releases the nurse from their nursing duties by ringing the bell three times. The nurse is presented with a white rose and a Florence Nightingale lamp is given to the family. All aspects of this ceremonial tribute are offered free of charge. The purpose of this organization is to provide comfort to the family and let them, as well as the community, know the value of each nurse that is honored.
In June 2019, the Nurses Honor Guard of South Carolina was founded by Stormy Shealy, and when Beth Edwards saw a viral Facebook video of the ceremony, she knew that the Grand Strand needed this tribute as well. Beth opened the Low Country chapter in October 2020 and recruited her trusty team: Pamela DeRuvo, the crafty one who paints most of the boxes they give to the families, Charity Herring, who presents the pin at the end of the service along with a poem she wrote, and Pam Stroud, who inspires and recruits new nurses to join and mentors them. Beth started as lead guard. She coordinates the funerals, talks to the director, and updates their “call to arms” meaning that there is a service coming up to see who can join. At each ceremony, they have a minimum of four nurses but have had as many as ten attend. Beth exclaimed, “The more nurses, the more beautiful!”
Growth and community awareness are the current goals of the Nurses Honor Guard. They need more nurses to join as they offer services from Georgetown up to the North Carolina border, as well as the Florence/Darlington area. When they see a nurse’s obituary in the newspaper, they wish that they could have paid their respects and offered their services on that significant day. “We want every nurse and family to know what we offer so that they can have this opportunity. We do not want to miss even one nurse,” said Charity. The family of a nurse does not always understand what they have been through because they do not want to go home after a hard day and put it all on their loved ones. Beth explained, “As a nurse, you miss birthdays and holidays, you sacrifice a lot for the service you provide to your patients and their families. It’s important that we are there to support the families of these nurses because we know what they have been through.”
Pam explained her experience working in the ICU: “Every time someone passes, a nurse gives away a piece of their heart along the way. Many times, I was the only person there when the family could not be, and it’s my duty to ease that last moment for them.” The Nurses Honor Guard is the perfect way for nurses to stay involved and continue to serve. Feeling the gratitude of the family and friends makes all of the time devoted well worth it. “It’s not the years that you’ve given, but it’s your heart and your soul that you have given, and the lives that you’ve touched,” Pamela continued, “It is a privilege for us to honor our colleagues because being a nurse means you have to really want to do this. You are asked to do a lot of things that most people do not want to do as a nurse, which is why it’s not just a profession, it’s a true calling!”