Capping Day Symbols
Standing at the front of the room, the Director of the Nursing School introduced the audience to Mrs. Kay, the Director of Nursing of the Metropolitan General Hospital, who stood at the podium in her white dress uniform and cap. It was a very sentimental moment for each of us as Mrs. Kay congratulated the entire class of student nurses on our achievements, welcoming us into the world of post-classroom nursing. The candle we held, she informed us, signified the Candle of Knowledge. She charged each of us with developing and expanding our knowledge base in this, our final year as a student of nursing.
In alphabetical order, each student was called to the front of the room by the School’s Director. As we approached and briefly stopped in front of her, greeted her with hesitant, but joyous smiles. My stomach was in knots, my cold palms perspired and I suspected that every one of my classmates’ felt the same way. With a thin smile and a meaningful look in her eyes, she whispered to me: “you just had to do it, didn’t you?” But I hadn’t been the afternoon’s ringleader in spite of what she thought. I swallowed, nodded politely to her, and moved along to approach Mrs. Kay who greeted me warmly.
Since my surname began with a T, I was one of the later students to be called up to the front of the room. While I nervously held my breath, Mrs. Kay whispered warm congratulations to me as she placed the final jewel of the third year student’s uniform on top of my head. The School’s all white, graduate cap, the one we’d longed for and worked for two years to obtain, was finally mine. While none of us had ever found the appearance of a (navy blue) beanie attached to a starched white cuff aesthetically pleasing, this all-white cap was an emotionally rewarding marker of our new status. That white cuffed cap with navy blue beanie, worn every day for the last two years, would no longer define my life. It was a truly joyous moment for me!
With a smile beaming from my face and a song in my heart, Mrs. Kay shook my hand and I started back toward my seat. Facing twenty other soon-to-be- third year nursing students, the joy on my face was reflected back to me from the student body. The School’s Director stiffly held my candle out to me, and from a large table candle in front of her, she kindled it and returned it to me. With my Candle of Knowledge flickering brightly in the darkness of the room, I returned to my seat and re-lived this overwhelming experience with the last three of my classmates. When the ceremony ended, we gathered for individual photos of ourselves standing in the darkness, holding our candles to our hearts, and appearing almost saintly in our white caps, shoes and stockings.