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While their schools might have canceled graduation ceremonies this year, seven nurses who will work on the cardiovascular critical care unit are treated to a little pomp and circumstance of their own.By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist, firstname.lastname@example.org
“Pomp and Circumstance” played quietly in the background of the conference room, which on this day was doubling as a mini auditorium, a venue for the graduation of seven new nurses at IU Health Methodist Hospital.
Because the coronavirus wiped out any chance of a normal graduation celebration, nurse manager Jessica Jones decided to throw her own party as a way to mark the students’ achievements and welcome them to her team at the hospital.
Jones, manager of clinical operations for cardiovascular critical care at Methodist, and her team decorated the area with banners, balloons, streamers, medical-themed centerpieces, nurse survival kits and special gifts and notes for the grads. They even live-streamed the program on Zoom so family and friends of the newly minted nurses could be there in spirit if not in person.
“We needed to do something for our people,” said Jones, who was dressed for the occasion in the black cap and gown she wore last year when she earned her master’s in nursing.
It was a little worse for wear, she said, because her kids had been using it to play dress-up, but it was perfect for this celebration.
In her “commencement speech,” Jones addressed the graduates, who were seated in alphabetical order along the wall, as well as several team members who joined the party.
“As we are all very aware, COVID-19 has changed the way we work, the way we learn, the way we shop, the way we socialize and the way we celebrate. Graduation and the nursing pinning ceremony are important symbols and a rite of passage and the acknowledgment of a huge accomplishment – finishing nursing school,” Jones said.
“All of the hours of studying, time in clinicals, patient care plans and group projects have prepared you to join one of the most honored and sacred professions. We are so honored to be a part of your story.”
She then called each graduate up for the pinning ceremony and to recite the Nightingale Pledge, named in honor of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), considered the founder of modern nursing.
All of the new nurses will work on CVCC. They are Hannah Busha, David Espiritu, Sarah Fuller, Shelby Howell, Tulsi Patel, Marcia Phelps and Hailey Sims.
Phelps, who added some sparkle to her graduation cap with the words: Be the light in someone’s darkness, said she decided she wanted to become a nurse at the age of 12 after her father suffered two heart attacks.
“I watched everyone save his life, and I wanted to do that,” she said.
Like everyone else in the room, David Espiritu never expected his graduation and pinning ceremony to look like this, but he is grateful to Jones and the CVCC for coming up with the idea for a ceremony in the midst of a pandemic.
Transitioning from nursing school to a nursing career feels a little strange, especially now, he said, “but I’m super excited and confident that they’ll be able to train me to be the best nurse I can be.”
Jones said it’s been important to keep not only current nurses but nurses-in-training in the loop as hospital procedures have evolved during the COVID outbreak.
“The team did a really good job of staying on top of the information, and I think that made everyone feel more equipped to handle what was coming,” she said.
“It was super impressive to see the fear transition to a sense of stability and an awareness that this is bigger than all of us. I think it actually united us too as a nursing profession. It’s been really humbling to be a part of,” Jones said.
That humility and appreciation was shared around the table in the individual notes left by experienced nurses for the new grads, including this one:
“Remember that you know more than you think, trust your gut and know we are all here to help you grow as a nurse. We were all new once! Welcome to our nursing family. I hope you will find nursing to be as fulfilling as I have.”
And this one: “Be kind, work hard, respect others, take walks, sit in the sunshine, never stop learning, be thankful, love big.”
Photos by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, email@example.com