Members of the North Mississippi Nurse Honor Guard include, from left, Sarah Howell, Lori Kimbrough, Helen Vance, Debbie Parker, Lisa Pearson, Teresa Fortune and Kim Wilson. The group has honored nurses at their funerals and hopes to call newly graduated nurses to duty and offer them support at medical facilities.

AMORY – Whereas nurses are there for people from their first breath to their last breath and every urgent time in between, the newly formed North Mississippi Nurse Honor Guard wants to be there for those members of the health care profession from graduation day to their end of duty at funerals.

“I wanted to establish a Nurse Honor Guard chapter in North Mississippi as a way to honor the nurses who dedicated their lives to others. Nurses are compassionate and caring professionals who give so much of themselves to help others. I pray for our chapter to grow and prosper and for us to lead the next generation of nurses to take our place. My goal is for the Nurse Honor Guard to bring comfort to the families and friends of our nursing colleagues and to know each one made a difference,” said Lisa Pearson of Amory, who started the group with founding members Debbie Parker and Anita Loftin.

Pearson has been a nurse for 29 years and is practical nursing program director at Itawamba Community College. She felt a calling to start a North Mississippi chapter from seeing the state’s founding chapter, established in Jackson by Connie Williams, appear before the Mississippi Board of Nursing

Initially, the North Mississippi Nurses Honor Guard, comprised of 40 to 50 nurses ranging from DeSoto County to Lowndes County, has served at funerals of nurses. Long-range, though, Pearson hopes the Nurse Honor Guard’s ministry will include attending nursing graduation ceremonies to call them to duty and to honor nurses in health care facilities after the pandemic.

“One of the biggest things I’d like to do when we go into hospitals is implement some kind of continuing education for them on the workplace environment to lift each other up,” Pearson said.

While honoring nurses at their funerals, members of the North Mississippi Nurse Honor Guard dress in all white with capes to perform a ceremony similar to a veteran’s funeral with military rites.

“We present white roses and lay them on the casket in the family spray,” Pearson said. “We present the family with white roses and light a candle with our Florence Nightingale Lamp. Florence Nightingale carried a lamp on the battlefield of the Crimean War. We blow out the candles at the end and leave the lamp with the families, along with scrolls. We’re honoring their life and releasing them from their duty, whether they’ve been retired many, many years or they’re just starting nursing.

“Solid white uniforms are a symbol of nursing, even though we don’t wear them anymore. We haven’t worn caps in about 29 years,” Pearson said. “With the capes, the red lining, nurses wore during World War I and World War II when they were on the battlefield. They would see the red and know it was the Red Cross.”

Angie Irvin, owner of LadyBug Fabrics in Aberdeen, has made the nurses’ capes.

Pearson said nursing is a lifestyle.

“Only nurses know that journey. When they pass, it’s a very good way to honor their memory and acknowledge what they did. It doesn’t matter if you retire, you’re a nurse,” she said. “It gives those nurses a time to grieve.

“You don’t have a chance to grieve in nursing. You have to compartmentalize. When a patient passes and they’re doing post-mortem care or you have a patient that just received a terminal diagnosis, your heart’s breaking and you want to cry with them and you go to the next room and somebody just got joyous news like they got a new lease on life, it’s a journey, and only nurses know that journey.”

The North Mississippi chapter began last fall, and there are also newly formed chapters in Central Mississippi and on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

For more information about participating in the North Mississippi Nurse Honor Guard, call Pearson at 315-2364. You can also Like North Mississippi Nurse Honor Guard on Facebook.

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