Emotions ride high during APNN graduation ceremony

Pinning caps intense year-long preparation for 56 students entering nursing profession

One by one, they paraded across the stage accompanied by tears and laughter. Awaiting them at the other end was a diploma, a pin and the beginning of a new life.

The emotional Dec. 17 pinning ceremony capped an intense year of professional preparation for 56 graduates of the University of Rochester School of Nursing Accelerated Program for Non-Nurses. This cohort of students, which entered the school in January 2015, came from a variety of different careers and backgrounds, but each individual shared a need for change and the desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

Dec 2015 Pinning Ceremony

Dec 2015 Pinning Ceremony

It was an emotional evening for APNN graduates as they marked the completion of an intense year of training at the School of Nursing’s traditional pinning ceremony surrounded by their friends, family and mentors.

"Recently I was speaking with a classmate in the program and I was struck when he described it as the best decision he ever made," said class speaker William Smith. "This statement precisely captures my thoughts about the program, and I suspect that many of my classmates would agree."

"To me, nursing has been a revelation, and I struggle to find words to describe just how pleased I am to be in a technical field that allows me to touch lives every day. Caring for sick people has become a true and palpable passion of mine, and the thought of making this passion my life’s work has me welling over with hope and happiness."

He was not alone. As they walked onstage, each graduate handed off an index card filled with their reflections on the program to be read aloud as they were pinned by a close family member, friend or mentor. Some notes were joyous and funny; others were moving tributes to those who inspired them. Nearly all expressed deep gratitude for all those that helped propel them into their newfound profession.

Dean Kathy Rideout kicked off the ceremony with an inspirational story of a teenage girl battling cancer, who fulfilled her dream of earning a nursing degree, with the help of her nurses, before she died. 

"They helped her to live with cancer," she said. "They advocated for her, helped her to cope with her diagnosis and treatment, helped her to study for exams and spent quiet time with her through all hours of the days and nights. Nursing to all of them was far more than a job – it was their heart and soul. And this is the profession you are entering tonight."

One of three cohorts training concurrently throughout the year, this accomplished group of graduates included six Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholars and three Fuld Scholars. About 25 percent of graduating students are male, with students coming to the school from as far away as Oregon, Ethiopia and the Philippines. Many grads already hold advanced degrees, and some had established successful careers in other fields, including public health, the arts and the military. 

But each decided to switch careers and advanced through the accelerated program with support and guidance from the school’s faculty and staff.

"I’m a walking billboard. I love the program," said Ma Malita Hebert, a Fuld Scholar originally from the Philippines. "I am very grateful to have learned from the best nurses and educators in the field."