nurses honor guard

Five of the seven nurses who have already joined the new nurses' honor guard are pictured here at a recent meeting. They are Pam Stroud, Grace Pagano, Charity Herring Beth Edwards and Pamela DeRuvo

Working as a nurse is more than a job; it’s an honor, according to Beth Edwards who is forming a group to continue to thank nurses for a job well done after their deaths.

“It’s not just a job. It’s really is a calling.,,You’ve got to love what you do. You see the best and the worst,” Edwards said.

During her 25 years of nursing, Edwards worked in a hospital nursery, in home care and with hospice.

She started with the beginning of life and circled all around to the end of life, “and it’s been a wonderful, wonderful career,” she said.

She says nurses’ families share in the sacrifices of their family members’ jobs being forced to do without their family members on holidays and vacations.

“We are not even able to be with our families during severe weather,” she said.

She believes these men and women deserve credit not only during their lives, but also after they die.

To that end, she is helping form a nurses’ honor guard in this area with plans to give brief tributes at nurses’ funerals and stand guard at their caskets in funeral homes when families request it.

So far there are seven nurses, all associated with Conway Medical Center, who have signed up for the honor guard, but they plan to travel around the area and hope to recruit nurses from throughout Horry, Georgetown and other nearby counties.

The Nurses Honor Guard of South Carolina began in November of 2019 and there are already three chapters around the state. There’s the Upper State, the Midlands and the Grand Strand Low Country. Stormy Shealy, a registered nurse in Easley and president of the statewide group, actually learned about the organization on Facebook and her interest was immediately piqued, Edwards said.

She found there was not one in South Carolina and thought there should be.

“Right now there are 65 current members over the whole state, and we are starting to grow and hopefully we’ll get a lot of members here in Horry County because there are so many outlets for nurses,” she said.

She points to hospitals, doctors’ offices and the VA clinic.

At a nurse’s funeral, when the family requests it, the nurses perform a four to five-minute Florence Nightingale Tribute to show their thanks for the work the nurses have done. They include an end of duty call, and they release the nurses from their earthly duties.

“It can be an emotional service just like the police, you know, who do the final call over their radio,” she said.

One of the most impressive things about the service is the registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners dress in all white including hats, capes, hose and shoes.

Men will wear white scrubs. Edwards isn’t sure if they’ll wear capes, but points out that they did during World War II. Donning a cape will be up to the individual man, she said.

Actually looking like most people’s idea of a nurse hasn’t been the easiest part of getting the honor guard set to go.

Edwards says her daughter made her cape and some of the ladies have ordered their uniforms from costume and cap shops.

“We’ll actually look like nurses,” Edwards said.

Her uniform, she said, looks like the attire she wore when she graduated from nursing school.

Nurses have a special connection, according to Edwards.

“I’ve walked in their shoes and they’ve walked in mine. It’s like a sisterhood. It’s like a brotherhood. It’s like family…It’s almost like being in a war together,” she said.

The ladies have already recorded their service and have provided it to funeral homes for families who want to use it, but Edwards hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic will move on and the nurses will soon be able to perform their services in person, complete with their Florence Nightingale lamps that she compares to a Genie’s lamp, just not as elaborate and with a curved handle.

Nightingale, probably the world’s best known and most revered nurse, used her lamp to make her rounds through military barracks to check on her patients as a manager and nurse trainer in the Crimean War.

The group is beginning with Pam Roberts, LPN, Pamela DeRuvo, RN, Charity Herring, RN, Karen Vereen, RN, Pam Stroud, RN, Edwards, RN and lead guard, and Grace Pagano, who holds the distinction of being the group’s longest serving nurse with more than 50 years of service.

Edwards expects the Florence Nightingale tribute to bring comfort to the nurses’ families acknowledging the sacrifices they’ve made having nurses in their families. The idea is to show respect and honor to people who dedicate their lives to serving their fellow human beings.

“…and we’re grateful they’ve let us have their family member as a colleague…It’s just a blessing straight from God to be able to have the qualities to be a nurse,” she said.

There are four nurses prepared now to perform the tribute. The ladies plan to begin visiting funeral homes soon to educate their staffs on the new group and what they offer. Now they need donations for lamps, flyers and cards. The honor guard is a nonprofit group.

“We need many nurses. We need volunteers. There are no dues right now. The nurses volunteer their time to perform these services. There are no charges whatsoever to the families,” Edward said.

Learn more on Facebook at Nurses Honor Guard of South Carolina or call Edwards at (843) 385-7944.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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