Throughout the coronavirus pandemic and long before, Atrium Health’s team of more than 20,000 nurses has proven an unwavering commitment to patients, keeping hospitals and care locations running during an unprecedented time of need. In the face of adversity, these compassionate and skilled nurses have shown tremendous dedication to Atrium Health’s mission to “improve health, elevate hope, and advance healing for all.”

Pictured: Stephanie McDonald

As Atrium Health nurses continue to provide patient-centered care, it is critical to prioritize their care and honor them for their sacrifices. In 2021, Atrium Health launched the Nurses Honor Guard to help pay tribute to former nurses for their contributions and provide support to their peers. The program was established by Stephanie McDonald, MSL, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer, Continuing Care at Atrium Health Greater Charlotte, with an initial grant from the Atrium Health Nursing Fund. Stephanie recently sat down with Atrium Health to share how the program came to be and its impact on the nursing community:

“A few years ago, I read a nursing journal article about a program in which nurses honored the work and career of a late colleague. I immediately knew I wanted to be part of bringing the program to Atrium Health. I even made a 2020 New Year’s resolution to launch the planning of this project. But COVID-19 put a sudden halt to that. This weighed heavily on my mind as I knew we were losing nurses to the pandemic to whom we might have been able to offer this service.

By late 2021, we were able to start planning again. With the support of Ernie Shaw, Assistant Vice President at Atrium Health Cabarrus, we reached out to nurses and received a resounding response from teammates who wished to volunteer. To date, over 100 nurses – RNs and LPNs – in Atrium Health Greater Charlotte are Honor Guard volunteers.

Recently, some of the nurse volunteers and I had the sad opportunity to serve as an honor guard for a late colleague, Wanda Huffstettler. At the funeral, we were all dressed in clothing of a bygone era: a white uniform, hosiery, nursing caps and shoes, and full blue capes. The ceremony began with an Honor Guard member stating the Nightingale Tribute, nine caring principles of nursing. We rang a triangle three times and stated Wanda’s name, adding that we now release her from her nursing duties. We then blew out the flame of the Nightingale Lamp we were holding and presented it to the family. One of us placed a white rose by her photo display.

For me, the Nurses Honor Guard is a way to extend our care to the nurses who have gone before us. Its purpose honors the nurse and connects nursing to our rich history and the nobility of our service. I am #AtriumHealthProud to work for an organization that supports nurses in this way.”

Note: The Atrium Health Nurses Honor Guard is available for any past or present teammate in Atrium Health Greater Charlotte. To request the Nurses Honor Guard, email


During Nurses Month and all year long, donors are encouraged to make a gift to the Atrium Health Nursing Fund. The Atrium Health Nurses Honor Guard is just one example of how funds can be used to support the nursing profession at Atrium Health. Additional areas of support include providing professional development opportunities for nurses and nursing students, providing the most advanced medical technology and educational resources, and ensuring Atrium Health nurses have the resources to deliver the most comprehensive care in the region.