he university community gathered virtually on Friday to celebrate the accomplishments of its 61 graduating accelerated nursing students at its annual pinning ceremony. It also marked the 20th year of the program. (Watch the full recording here.)
“I want to express my utter gratitude and admiration for all of our nurses as you and your colleagues around the world put our lives ahead of your own, as you care for people with your talents, expert knowledge, selflessness and kindness,” President Judy Olian told the graduating students and their families watching from across the country. “You are truly doing God’s work.”
She said the country needed their unique skillsets and passion more than ever, as we battle the coronavirus.
“To all of our graduates serving in the health care field, this comes at an unprecedented time, one that demands your resilience, your stamina and your compassion,” she told the Class of 2020, who will be completing their degrees next month. “While these times are challenging, I am comforted to know that you will each help ease this health care crisis. You are so well prepared for the challenges ahead, knowledgeable in the practice of nursing and caring in administering to others who need you.”
She told the students that they have chosen the most noble, life-saving profession, one, that she described as “a career of sacrificing for others, extending compassion, connecting with the humanity of another, listening to other’s fears and dreams. It can be intimidating and, at the same time, it can be an exhilarating vocation.”
Lisa O’Connor, dean of the School of Nursing, described the collective work, perseverance and determination of these students as “truly incredible.”
“You are entering the profession as a baccalaureate nurse at a critical time in our nation’s history,” she told her students. “This COVID-19 pandemic will challenge you even more so than your nursing school experience — but you will be ready.”
She urged the students to be proud, stand tall and to celebrate, saying it was their time to shine.
“You will be challenged to prioritize, to make quick decisions, to multitask and to utilize your clinical-reasoning skills, to be adaptable, to be flexible, to be patient, to be kind,” she said. “Go forth, Class of 2020. You have the tools now, the foundation and the determination.”
Ena Williams, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Yale New Haven Hospital, told the graduates that the pinning ceremony is an important moment in the life of a nurse, symbolizing a sort of transition from one stage of your journey of nursing to another.
“I think you all have an incredible story to share as a nurse. I don’t think there’s a better year to have become a nurse,” she said. “As challenging as it has been, what you have been able to overcome and persevere through has probably accelerated your life in ways that would have probably taken you many, many years.”
She told the members of the Class of 2020 that they have the strength and courage to do so much more than they ever thought they could achieve.
“The early beginnings of your career will feel like you are wading in unknown waters,” she said. “Don’t feel worried, it’s not unusual, but you have been prepared with the foundational skills and the knowledge you’ll need to get started.”
Williams smiled as she said she can still remember how nervous she was throughout her first couple years in the profession, often going home, struggling to remember if she did everything right.
“Make the world a better place by never missing the opportunity to connect with your patients and the people in your community,” she urged. “You now have the incredible responsibility to speak up when you see something that is not right.”
She told the students that they do more than treat their patients, they serve as their voices.
“Patients depend on us to do something,” she said. “Patients depend on that when we see something that is not right, not just, and not fair, to do something.”
Briana Marshall ’20, celebrated the extraordinary accomplishments in the student address.
“One short year ago, we were all strangers entering this program with an array of backgrounds, experiences and degrees,” she recalled. “We were all faced with this exciting yet daunting task of learning everything possible about nursing in one year. The undertaking felt impossible but as time passed, we saw noticeable changes in each other’s knowledge and ability realizing we were, in fact, building our nursing foundation week by week even though there were moments we felt dazed and confused.”
She said the impact of COVID-19 actually brought the class closer together.
“Little did we know, halfway through our nursing transformation, we would experience unprecedented challenges caused by the rise of the coronavirus. Thankfully our dedicated School of Nursing faculty put all their efforts into making the abrupt switch to online learning seamless and meaningful within the limitations of being virtual to keep our program on track,” she said. “Transitioning exclusively to online classes and clinicals was challenging and unforeseen but also emphasized our class’ level of resilience, determination and comradery. Quarantine ironically brought us closer as a cohort and the outpouring of support an encouragement for one another only grew stronger because we were all in this together.”
Eileen Hermann, clinical assistant professor of nursing and director of the upper division of nursing, told the graduates and their families that the nursing pin is a nearly 1,000-year-old symbol of service to others — that began during the Crusades.
“The pin embodies your intention to stay with the patient long after everyone else leaves or has given up,” she said. “A nurse is always there for patients — as seen today in the COVID-19 crisis.”
She said the colors of the pin have significance, as well — in Quinnipiac’s case, it’s blue and gold representing truth, loyalty and worthiness.
Mary Peterson, clinical assistant professor and director of the program, told the graduates that they are well prepared and poised for successful careers.
“You are all an asset to the nursing profession,” she said. “As a nurse, you will provide competent, holistic, culturally sensitive care to your patients. As a leader, you will share your wisdom, knowledge and skills to help improve the health care system.”
The university also celebrated the successes of several students during the ceremony, including Kara Kenyon, who earned the Jonathan Gaddis ’15 Humanitarian Award. The award honors the alumnus who died in 2017. Watch the video below now to learn more about Jonathan.