The Nebraska Nurses Honor Guard will cover the Columbus area

JARED BARTON THE COLUMBUS TELEGRAM

The purpose of the Nebraska Nurses Honor Guard is to honor every nurse who has died in the state of Nebraska. Since 2019, they’ve amassed about 140 members across the state, and now a Columbus-area division is joining their ranks.

The Nebraska Nurses Honor Guard attends funerals whenever called upon and provides a short but meaningful service to signify the nurse’s life and legacy, according to founder Debra Zobel.

Carol Busch, who was chosen to lead the Columbus Regional Group, said that for those who have given their lives and careers to the cause of helping others, it’s a great way to honor those who are deceased.

“Their lives have been of service to others. They put their nursing careers first to serve others. I think it’s important to represent them,” Busch said.

Busch will be officially inducted at an induction ceremony Oct. 8 at the Butler County Health Care Center.

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Busch, a 35-year-old nurse herself, initially wanted to create a division of David City, but the board had envisioned Columbus as an operations hub for the greater Columbus area for some time.

“Since it was bigger, we would have Columbus as our headquarters and David City would be one of the surrounding areas we would serve,” Busch said.

Nursing honor guards exist in other states, said Ann Anderson, secretary of the Nebraska Nurses Honor Guard and a retired nurse of 43 years, but in 2019 Zobel thought Nebraska in needed. That summer, several nurses came together and laid the groundwork for the organization.

“There were only four of us at first. We started meeting at my house at my kitchen table and started thinking about how we were going to get this off the ground,” Anderson said.

In October, they were able to start rendering services. The services themselves are short but poignant, Anderson said, consisting of a reading from the American Nurses Association’s Nightingale Tribute, with the nurse’s name replacing the word “nurse” throughout.

“It’s a very old way of honoring a nurse. The Nightingale Tribute reviews all that nurses do and stand for,” Anderson said.

After the reading, a single white rose is placed next to the urn or casket, a symbol of comfort, care and kindness, Anderson said. Then the nurse’s name is read three times, each followed by the ringing of a triangle, similar to a police or fire department funeral service.

“It acts as a sort of last call, and we’ve sat down, they’ve now been officially released from nursing duties,” Anderson said.

To close, a ceramic lamp is lit, a semi-homage to Florence Nightingale, “The lady with the lamp” and a metaphor for knowledge.

“The lamp is on at the beginning of a nurse’s career and off at the end. We say a few lines and turn it off, with a snuffer, and give the lamp to a family member,” Anderson said.

Services are rendered in full nurse’s attire, white uniforms, navy blue caps and nurse’s hats. In some cases, the honor guard will also honor those who are still alive but in hospice, as a sign of respect. They are even available to do video services when travel is not possible.

Additionally, the Honor Guard has a Nurses Wall on nebraskanursehonorguard.com featuring the state’s deceased nurses. Zobel’s mother’s nurse is even on the list, she says.

“It’s our way of honoring our nurses with a living legacy that will be there forever,” Zobel said.

Zobel, who just retired Sept. 21 after 46 years in nursing, said that ultimately all of their services show respect for their colleagues in the nursing profession.

“We just want to be able to honor nurses at the time of their passing. We believe nursing is a calling, not just a career. You are a nurse for life,” Zobel said. “It’s a way of thanking our colleagues who have dedicated their lives to their careers.”

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