Shelley Willette, a retired nurse from Plattsburgh, NY, established the National Nurses Honor Guard. Her goal was to create an honor guard for nurses to recognize an individual’s career-long dedication to nursing and to pay respect at the end of a nurse’s life. The idea was based on a similar service to what the military, police, and firefighters perform for their fallen colleagues. Willette first met with colleagues who had a similar interest in 2013, but shortly after this gathering, Willette died unexpectedly. To honor her, her friends and colleagues moved forward and made her dream a reality. Today, many Nurse Honor Guards throughout the United States commemorate and pay tribute to nurses at the time of their passing by performing the Nightingale Tribute at their funeral or memorial service.
The Nurse Scholars Academy established the Nurse Honor Guard for Kaiser Permanente Northern California in the summer of 2022. The reception and growing number of requests for the honor guard have been inspirational, and the Nurse Honor Guard has participated in more than 10 services across Northern California to date. Although the honor guard started with just Kaiser Permanente Nurses, efforts to increase support and participation have now been extended to the Kaiser Foundations School of Nursing Alumni Association and further to any nurse who would like to volunteer. The goal is to increase the number of volunteer Nurse Honor Guard representatives and to have an established Nurse Honor Guard lead at each of our 21 Northern California Kaiser Permanente facilities. Additionally, the group is exploring ways to invite other health systems to join us as a nursing community to honor other nurses.
If you want to learn more about the Nurse Honor Guard volunteer group, please contact Janet L. Sohal at Janet.L.Sohal@kp.org.