I recently attended the memorial service of a friend who was a nurse for many years. On one of the tables of remembrances was information about something called the Nightingale Tribute. This was something that I had not heard of until then.

According to most internet sources, the Nightingale Tribute was designed in 2003 by the Kansas State Nurses Association as a special way to honor nurses at the time of their deaths.

In my 15 years as a physician assistant, I’ve worked with many nurses and my brother was a nurse. Through my work with nurses and knowing my brother, I’ve built enormous respect for nurses’ work and their very broad reach.

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There’s a strong family thing in nursing, and the Nightingale Tribute is indicative of that. The tribute is easily accessed, and users are encouraged to adapt or modify it as they wish. The poem “She Was There” is part of the tribute, and that is copyrighted but users are encouraged to adjust the gender as needed.

The Tribute can be found at the Kansas State Nurses Association web site.  Here is the wording of the tribute:

The Nightingale Tribute Reading

Nursing is a calling, a lifestyle, a way of living. Nurses here today honor our colleague _____________ who is no longer with us and their life as a nurse. _______________is not remembered by his/her ___ years as a nurse, but by the difference he/she made during those years by stepping into people’s lives, by special moments.

And here is the poem “She Was There,” also for recitation at nurse funerals:

She Was There

When a calming, quiet presence was all that was needed, She was there.

In the excitement and miracle of birth or in the mystery and loss of life, She was there.

When a silent glance could uplift a patient, family member of friend, She was there.

At those times when the unexplainable needed to be explained, She was there.

When the situation demanded a swift foot and sharp mind, She was there.

When a gentle touch, a firm push, or an encouraging word was needed, She was there.

In choosing the best one from a family’s “Thank You” box of chocolates, She was there.

To witness humanity,—its beauty, in good times and bad, without judgment, She was there.

To embrace the woes of the world, willingly, and offer hope, She was there.

And now, that it is time to be at the Greater One’s side, She is there. [Note: pronoun can be changed. ©2004 Duane Jaeger, RN, MSN]

_______________, we honor you this day and present this white rose and light this candle to symbolize our honor and appreciation for being our nurse colleague.

As all PAs know, there is a similar “family” feel among PAs. Most times when I meet someone and find out we’re PAs, there’s a broad smile and hearty handshake.  It would be interesting to create a similar tribute for PAs which could be used at the time of their death.

Most of us want to be remembered as clinicians who put our patients first, and this would be one way to offer recognize the important work that PAs get to do.  There is much for PAs to learn from nursing and nurses, and this is yet another inspiring component of the rich nursing traditions.

Jim Anderson, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, DFAAPA, is a physician assistant in Seattle, WA.