The pinning ceremony is a time-honored nursing school tradition. Often more personally meaningful than the graduation ceremony, it signifies your official initiation into the brotherhood and sisterhood of nurses. The ceremony is rich with symbolism. The history of this right of passage can be traced all the way back to the Crusades of the 12th century. During this time, the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist tended to injured and infirm Crusaders. When new monks were initiated into the order, they vowed to serve these sick soldiers in a ceremony where each monk was given a Maltese cross, the first badges given to those who nurse.
The modern ceremony dates back to the 1860s, when Florence Nightingale was awarded the Red Cross of St. George in recognition for her tireless service to the injured during the Crimean War. To share the honor, she in turn presented a medal of excellence to her brightest graduates. By 1916, the practice of pinning new graduates was standard throughout the U.S.