Return to Menu Symbol of a Profession: One Hundred Years of Nurses' Caps

Cap - Hamilton and District Regional School of Nursing - 1999.267.35 - CD2001-68-068

The Capping Ceremony

Upon completing her training probation period lasting approximately three months, the student nurse, or "probie" participated in a "capping" ceremony, where she received her first cap. At the Hamilton and District Regional School of Nursing, for example, probies were given a cap with a white band (1999.267.35). The ceremony promoted school loyalty and pride and inspired students to persevere through the rigours of training ahead. Part of the ritual was a vow to behave ethically and honour her profession. An indication of the solemnity of the capping ceremony can be gleaned from a speech given at the 1945 capping ceremony at the Memorial Hospital, St. Thomas, Ontario. A copy of the speech was given to each "probie" along with her cap.

Wearing the cap was a privilege, and a nurse in training could have her cap revoked if she trangressed school rules. For example, when one Vancouver General Hospital student was caught smoking in her room, she lost her cap for six months.

By the 1950s, nursing educators began to believe that using the cap to discipline or differentiate nurses was bad for morale, and the capping ceremony of the probationer was eliminated.

Getting ready for the
"capping ceremony"
Toronto Western Hospital, 1958

Photograph courtesy of
the Canadian Nurses Association

Getting ready for the capping ceremony


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