One nurse held a burning candle. Another read a poem. Soft notes from a musical triangle rang out 3 times as a dozen voices repeated their colleague’s name in unison: “Letty, Letty, Letty.”
Then, finally: “We officially release you of your nursing duties.”
The sunrise memorial for Leticia “Letty” Dicioco-Reyes, just outside the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center’s Neuro Medical Intensive Care Unit where she worked for 21 years, was organized by the newly formed Kaiser Permanente Northern California Nurse Honor Guard.
Dicioco-Reyes died Dec. 20 after a short battle with cancer.
“We are very honored to have this event for Letty,” said her sister Lenora Dicioco-Cabrera, who attended with Dicioco-Reyes’ husband, Jaime Reyes. Dicioco-Reyes would have turned 65 on February 28.
The group of nurses who honored her came from all over the Bay Area and Northern California Kaiser Permanente service areas. They donned capes and old-time nurse caps. The memorial is called the Nightingale Tribute, named for the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, and was first developed by the Kansas State Nurses Association in 2003 to honor deceased nurses.
“I can tell you as a nurse of 30 years, this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced,” said Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Chief Nurse Executive Josephine Jorge-Reyes, as she choked back tears. “You give your life to service and then to be relieved of that duty is a beautiful thing to witness. It gives you peace.”
Karen Carter, RN, a nurse manager at the Kaiser Permanente Vallejo Medical Center, rang the triangle for Dicioco-Reyes after driving more than an hour to attend the service.
“I think it’s important that we come to honor all the hard work and dedication that nurses do over their lifetime,” Carter said.
The Kaiser Permanente Nurse Honor Guard began offering the tribute for deceased nurses in July of last year and has already performed it 7 times, said Janet Sohal, RN, regional director of the Kaiser Permanente Nurse Scholars Academy. Sohal, who lives and works in the Sacramento area, traveled to Chico the previous week for a ceremony and then attended Dicioco-Reyes’ ceremony in Redwood City.
The guard is currently looking to grow its ranks at all 21 medical centers, said Sohal. It started with 3 members and has grown to 20. The goal is to have a group at each of Kaiser Permanente’s 21 medical centers in Northern California to honor and acknowledge deceased nurses, their families, and colleagues when either nurse leaders or families request it.
“I do this because I think it is my duty to comfort the family, and because I love nursing,” said Sohal. “It’s a way of saying, ‘You’ve worked hard, and now it’s time for you to rest.’ It’s really done with heart and passion and is a fitting way for us to say goodbye to them.”
To request a Nightingale Tribute for a nurse who has passed away or to join the Nurse Honor Guard, email Janet Sohal at Janet.L.Sohal@kp.org or Eileen Lang at Eileen.P.Lang@kp.org