During the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) nursing recognition ceremony in January, and as part of the college’s 22st Winter Commencement, 47 associate degree nursing candidates received their nursing pin. The ceremony marked the end of an extraordinary journey for the nurses who spent the majority of their last spring semester and their final fall semester together in challenging environments learning about, and responding to, a world-wide pandemic.
As 2020 was deemed the ‘International Year of the Nurse,” by the World Health Organization in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth, CSM Nursing Professor Rose Miller began the ceremony by sharing the history and significance of CSM’s nursing pin. Modern pinning ceremony date 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. According to Miller, to share the honor, Nightingale presented a medal of excellence to her brightest graduates and by 1916, the practice of pinning new graduates was standard throughout the United States.
“This Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program that you are graduating from, was started in 1979 with the first ADN pin being awarded to graduates in 1981,” Miller said, further explaining that on July 1, 2000, Charles County Community College’s name was changed to the College of Southern Maryland, so the nursing pin for the nursing programs had to change, too.
“The nursing pin symbolizes a rite of passage for graduates into the professional world of nursing,” Miller continued. “The graduate is now a part of the nursing profession. Nurses care for patients daily with commitment, honor and courage. Our CSM nursing pin is a symbol of this commitment of honor and courage to our patients. So, go forth into the world of nursing and wear your pin with pride.”
Navigating Tough Times
The ceremony’s student speaker Christina Fowlkes expressed pride for her classmates not just for their accomplishments, but also for how the group faced these unprecedented times together.
“Throughout our time together we have become a tight-knit group and I will be a better nurse for having known each and every one of you,” Fowlkes said. “This program is intense even in ideal conditions, but 2020 offered us nothing but challenges. However, we chose to face these challenges together. … unified to face the challenges of entering the nursing profession during a pandemic.”
The Leonardtown resident also extended gratitude to her three small children and to the friends and family – many attending the Zoom ceremony – who supported all the students.
“To all of our support people, thank you.” Fowlkes told the ceremony attendees. “You helped us cope with the additional anxieties of nursing school. You held us when we experienced disappointments and celebrated with us when we achieved our goals. Twenty-twenty was not an easy year for any of us, so thank you for your unrelenting support and encouragement on our journey to becoming nurses.”
Fowlkes shared that the last two semesters were tough – tougher than usual.
“The fourth semester was extremely difficult,” she said. “The fourth semester is always really hard, but it was harder and frustrating because the pandemic fatigue was weighing on us. Many of us worked as externs and even more as techs through the semester, which created pandemic stress at work as well as home. And that fell especially heavy on the techs in our cohort. As aspiring nurses, we felt called to help. And I saw the exhaustion in many of my classmates as they showed up for class after working a night shift. We all were just trying to survive. In the end it made us closer, we supported each other more than we might have.
“We enter a profession that is highly respected,” she summarized. “For the last 18 years, Americans have ranked nurses as the most honest and ethical professionals and knowing each of you, I can see why.”
A Few More Promises
CSM Nursing Professor Jeanne Hill closed the ceremony, hailing the graduates for their perseverance and promising them the best was yet to come.
“We have gathered here to celebrate you and your accomplishment of finishing nursing school, despite the challenges thrown at you in the past 10 months,” Hill said, pointing out that the students’ sudden switch to online classes and virtual clinical experiences in March 2020 was abrupt.
“You were isolated from your peers, your faculty, and your support groups,” she said. “Face-to-face learning was replaced with Zoom. Clinical settings became the VSim scenarios. Study groups were interrupted. Classroom interaction was dramatically changed. Despite those challenges, you are sitting here tonight and have just received your ADN pin.”
Joking about her reputation for making promises to her students, Hill took time to make a few more.
“In fact, many of you, when you were doubting yourselves, I promised you that you would be here today…and here you are,” Hill said. “With that said, I only make realistic promises. As you prepare to enter the profession, here are a few promises that I can make to you:
“I promise that there will be shifts where you won’t eat, drink, or go to the bathroom for 12 hours (this is great preparation for road trips, by the way).
I promise that there will be 12-hour shifts that will turn into 16 or even 18-hour shifts (but you will stay because you WILL care that much about your patients and coworkers.)
I promise that you will be talked down to by a provider, a coworker, or even a patient’s family member. Probably at a time that you are advocating for your patient. Advocate anyway.
I promise that there will be days so hard that you will not know if you can go back tomorrow (but you will.)
I promise that your heart will break with every loss you experience (it never gets easier.)
But, I also promise you that most days, you will be appreciated by every patient you take care of.
I also promise you that you will make a difference every-single-day.
And I promise you that you will go home every shift, no matter how hard it was, knowing that in some way, you made that difference.
I also promise you that you will know, in your heart, that you did everything you could, and you gave it your best, no matter the outcome.
And lastly, I promise you that every single day, even the hardest ones, will be worth it. ”
Hill wrapped up her comments noting that 2020 may have the ‘Year of the Nurse,’ but 2021 is going to be each graduate’s year.
“Embrace it,” she offered. “Learn. Laugh. Cry. Struggle. Succeed. Repeat. This is your chance to do what you have been yearning to do. What you have worked so hard to get to these past few years. You will touch many lives throughout your career. Do it with pride, confidence, skill, and knowledge. Most of all, do it with your heart. It has been my pleasure to be part of your nursing education. I am proud of each and every one of you.”
The following are the names of the CSM students who graduated with associate degrees in Nursing and received their coveted pins:
Courtney Elizabeth Alvey
Brian A. Ansell
April Ann Bautista
Ian M. Beard
Allison M. Collins
Amber N. Cooksey
Margaret Katherine Cooper
Rachel E. Gardiner
Shelby Delane Harold
Alexa Rae Harris
Liisa R. Holso
Cheyenne Miriam Hook
Shelby R. Johnston
Grace J. Kim
Katie Klotz *recipient of CSM Health Sciences Division Achievement in Nursing
Alexis N. Labrosse
Stephanie Michelle Lewis
C’jia D. Mayfield
Sarah Jo Miller
Alexandra P. Myers *recipient of CSM Health sciences Division Academic Achievement in Nursing
Courtney Leigh Oliverio
Brianna M. Palumbo
Tatiana J. Pfalz
Julie N. Pham
Layla L. Potas
Brianna Nicole Reid
Monique R. Sebo
Fatou J. Sissohore
Deshawna C. Smith
Krista N. Young