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Do Nurses Take an Oath?: A Complete Guide

Nursing is more than a career opportunity. It is a field that keeps the healthcare industry going. With more than four million registered nurses, there is still room for more of these professionals in the United States. As the number grows, it becomes increasingly important to maintain the standards of the profession.

Further, a certain degree of professionalism and duty is expected from nursing professionals. That’s because they deal directly with human beings in different capacities.

To that end, they’re required to commit to the ethical standards of the profession and have to treat patients to the best of their ability. However, you may be wondering whether they have to take some kind of oath.

Without a palm to their chest and a steady gaze, nurses have to act in the best interest of their patients. That said, this article examines whether they have an oath, how effective it is, and whether it is legally binding on nurses that take them.

Do Nurses Take Oaths? 

This question has risen due in part to the Hippocratic Oath taken by doctors during their induction into the profession. The oath came about between the fifth and third centuries.

From the original copy, other versions have since been created to hide the ethics of doctors and other healthcare professionals. That includes nurses who must advocate and care for their patients.

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Nurses must help to manage the physical needs of the patient and ensure that they do all they can to improve their well-being. However, unlike doctors, they are not administered the Hippocratic oath.

Nurses do not swear to or take any oath in the strict sense of the word. What nurses do is recite the Florence Nightingale Pledge at a nurse pinning ceremony.

Considering the nature of their career and the demands of the healthcare sector, nurses must be accountable for their actions. That’s why the pledge combines with state and federal laws to ensure nurses provide effective care to all patients.

Are Nurses Bound by Any Pledge or Promises After Graduation?

Quick answer, no. A nursing graduate is not bound to any promise or pledge during graduation. Moreover, the ceremony is a symbolic transition for nursing students ending their studies and beginning their careers as nurses. The Nightingale Pledge might apply to all nurses, but it’s not applicable anywhere outside the United States. It’s not an oath.

Further, a college can choose to use the Nightingale Pledge or not. But its application is not a legal requirement, nor is the nurse legally bound to uphold the pledge.

All the pledge is required to do is to guide your moral choices in your duty as a nurse. You’ll find that the legal requirements provided by the Board of Nursing in your state of practice follow the general ideas listed in the Florence Nightingale Pledge.

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Hippocratic Oath vs Nightingale Pledge

young doctor taking the hippocratic oath

The Hippocratic Oath was designed to guide a physician’s ethical choices over patients and treatments. It was originally written in Greek and traditionally credited to a physician known as Hippocrates who lived from 460 to 370 BC. Since then, this oath has been used for millennia. Besides, the oldest existing version of the oath dates back over a thousand years.

The Florence Nightingale Pledge draws inspiration from the Hippocratic Oath, which has been updated to reflect current trends in the medical and healthcare industry. That’s why the oath and pledge now include several major concepts, such as respect for past doctors, help for future doctors, and enhanced patient privacy. The oath is a pointer to helping doctors treat each patient as an individual worthy of respect.

The same applies to the nursing pledge, which serves as a reminder of the performance of their duty. With the oath and pledge, it’s clear that the priority is the health of the patient.

Modern Updates on the Nightingale Pledge

Depending on your location and facility management, the pledge, as given by Lystra Gretter in 1893, may differ. For example, the reference to God and purity has been removed.

In place of God, you have a reference to all faiths, considering nurses have different beliefs. Also, many professionals believe that the reference to the purity of a person is unnecessary and has nothing to do with a nurse’s purpose.

Further, ‘aiding the physician’ is widely substituted with ‘collaborating with the healthcare team.’ Modern medical institutions now emphasize teamwork among doctors and allied health professionals like nurses.

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That shows that every single member of the team has a vital role to play in providing comprehensive care. Other than these changes, the pledge also gives more consideration to social and community welfare.

Ethical Benefits of the Florence Nightingale Pledge

Some of the ethical benefits of the pledge are:

  • The pledge is a foundation for the code of ethics in the nursing profession;
  • It sets the benchmark for professionalism among nurses, including moral guidance concerning patient care;
  • It promotes honesty, confidentiality, and transparency between nurses and patients;
  • The pledge influences the decisions of nurses concerning their conduct, behavior, and interactions with other healthcare professionals;
  • The pledge is essential to improving the quality of healthcare services.


Now that you know this information about nursing pledges, it’s easy to contrast it with oaths taken by doctors. The Nightingale pledge can be likened to the Hippocratic Oath because they bare certain similarities.

That includes ultimate care for patients, respect for their privacy, and teamwork between fellow healthcare professionals. However, the pledge isn’t backed up by laws but forms a part of most graduation ceremonies.

The pledge remains a reminder of the basic principles of your career, the responsibilities attached, and the ethical benefits derived from it. In addition, many medical establishments have made varying modifications to the pledge to reflect current healthcare trends.

If nursing is a career you want to pursue, you will have to commit to some level of professionalism. Whether that’s through the Nightingale Pledge or not, you owe a duty of care to your patients.

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