While National Nurses Week comes to an end today, one newly formed organization in Hot Springs will continue to celebrate nurses throughout the year.
Established as a nationwide organization in 2003, the Nurses Honor Guard recognizes and pays tribute to those who dedicated their careers to nursing after their deaths with final services.
The Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard was formed in February 2021, according to Margo Bushmiaer, chapter leader for the Hot Springs chapter of the organization, which formed in July 2022.
Bushmiaer and Lisa Tinney, along with three others, were founding members of the Hot Springs chapter, they said.
"A few of us nurses, Lisa and I and three other nurses, just came together, met at a clinic and started talking," Bushmiaer said. "We'd all read or heard something about the Honor Guard organization, and we wanted this program in Hot Springs for the nurses of Garland County."
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Since its establishment, the Hot Springs chapter, now with more than 400 followers on Facebook, has been able to provide services for 10 tributes in and out of the county, she said.
The service involves at least one nurse in historically traditional uniform, going over professional information about the late nurse provided by the family or co-workers, then a rose is either presented to the family or placed on the casket or next to the urn, followed by the lighting of the lamp of knowledge, Tinney said.
Next, the nurse or nurses recite the Nightingale Tribute in honor of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, followed by the poem, "She Was There." Finally, the late nurse is relieved of their official duties by the ring of the roll call bell.
"Once the roll call is done, we blow out the candle, and then that ends our tribute," Tinney said.
"So, it starts with honoring the nurse, what she's done for our community and for all the citizens and the people she served or he has served," Bushmiaer said.
"Do the roll call and then extinguish the lamp and say the nurse is released of her duties. So, it's really touching, and it's often difficult for us not to get a little teary or emotional, but it's all done out of appreciation for the service that the nurse has done," she said.
National Nurses Week, celebrated between May 6-12, is inspired by Nightingale, as her birthday is May 12.
While Bushmiaer is now retired from a career as a nurse practitioner, teacher and then director of nurses, Tinney is currently self-employed as a psychiatric nurse practitioner and the owner of Serenity Psychiatric Services in Hot Springs.
Bushmiaer and Tinney decided to establish a the local chapter of the guard to recognize "the sacrifices that nurses made," Bushmiaer said, noting the pandemic, as hard as it was on nurses, is also what brought the Arkansas Nurses Honor Guard to fruition.
"The woman who brought the concept of the honor guard to Arkansas was Teresa Buchanan, and that was in December of 2020," she said. "And she was telling her co-workers about it and was getting everybody excited, and then she got COVID herself and died before she got everything started.
"And her co-workers were so touched by her -- she was a wonderful nurse -- and one of her really good friends and co-workers said, 'I've got to make her dream come true.' So, nurse Collins got it started, and now we have 22 chapters across the state."
Any licensed practical nurse, registered nurse or nurse practitioner is eligible for services as long as the funeral services are held near an established chapter. Any nurse is eligible to join the organization, as well, with no obligation to attend every meeting, Tinney said.
To join the Hot Springs chapter or start a new chapter, the organization can be reached via Facebook @ARnurseshonorguard. To inquire about services through the local chapter, call Bushmiaer at 501-251-7499.