Last Thursday I volunteered at the nursing pinning ceremony. My good friend Janet finished the long race and was amongst the tired and anxious nursing students, who crossed the finish line of the Nursing School Marathon. Janet and I met in Anatomy and Physiology 1 lab, back in 2011. She sat in the font row, and I sat right behind her (which is odd for me, because I’m a front row kinda gal). When our instructor would ask a question, it would be a race between Janet and I to see who could answer fastest. That’s when we became friends. From that point on, we studied the human bones together, we talked about our similarities (we’re close to the same age, both of us have two daughters and lovely husbands and both of us volunteered at a hospital at that time), we shared our passion for nursing and people, and we vowed that we’d finish our nursing education journey together. We went through A&P 2 and Microbiology together during the course of 2012. We’d quiz each other on the way to school on exam days, via phone calls, and we’d send helpful A&P or microbiology videos to one another via email. We combined our brains together in a big pot of what I call “genius” (haha), and did well on all three courses, each of us pulling in all A’s. Then at the end of the Microbiology semester, Janet had the opportunity to apply for the grant program through Largo Med and start the nursing program within a matter of weeks. She begged me to apply too, but Doug and I felt that I should wait until Soph started kindergarden before I applied. So, I waited and Janet started ahead of me. I was sad that we wouldn’t continue together, but she went ahead and paved the way. She called me after her first and second week of school, and gave me a full run down of the madness called “nursing school”. I remember feeling overwhelmed after some of our conversations, but now I think that’s what really helped me prepare and be proactive upon entering the nursing program. She passed along old books and advised me on what to study and how to study. She passed along study guides for Pharmacy. She called on days that were crazy (esp. during the summer semester), just to vent. Watching her move along through each semester was great for me because she showed me, by example, that I could do it, even with two kids and a husband. Her advice and help was amazing. Then I got to see her walk across the stage on Thursday and get “pinned”. I had proud tears in my eyes for my friend.
You probably want to ask me the question, “what is a pinning ceremony?” Well, let me tell you. It’s a ceremony strictly for the graduating nursing students and their families. Every graduating nursing student wears all white scrubs or a dress, and some wear the traditional white nurses hat. The new nurses (or soon to be, after the NCLEX) march down the aisle in a procession with their classmates, to beautiful music. There is lots of cheering and lots of happy and proud tears. Speeches are given, and during this particular ceremony, Dr. Grimaldo, our A&P 2 instructor was the keynote speaker, which I thought was so fitting (he was one of our favorites). Then one by one, the nursing students walk across the stage to receive their nursing pin, in which their instructor pins the nursing pin to the students scrub dress or top. After that, a quick picture is taken of the student with their instructor. Then family and friends who sit and watch in the audience cheer loudly as the student walks off the stage. That is the official description of the pinning ceremony. Now, I’ll tell you what the pinning ceremony is from my view.
My job as a volunteer at the pinning ceremony was to hand out programs as people entered the building. Additionally, I was to direct the nursing students to their designated spot and the family and friends into the auditorium. I love this particular job and the spot in which I’m placed because I get to see everything, and it inspires me. I get to watch the nursing students walk in the building looking beautiful in all white. I see them find their friends and I watch them embrace one another with big proud smiles and a “we made it” slap on the back. Then they take pictures together. I see them welcome their family members as they meet together in the lobby, embracing each other with big hugs. I watch proud spouses walk in with flowers or a card. I see kids ready and excited to see mommy or daddy graduate. But, this was a benign description I just gave, a description that any given passerby could give. I know this, because I’m a nursing student. What I see is deeper, and that’s when I start to get emotional….or as my friend Cindy says, “sentimental”. I know I’m sentimental, but I feel proud to volunteer at this ceremony, and last Thursday was my 2nd time volunteering. From my perspective, as a fellow nursing student, I see a group of nursing students who have worked SO very hard to be where they are….attending the nursing pinning ceremony. They have spent hours upon hours every day studying, reading and sacrificing. They say “no” to so much in an effort to stay afloat. They miss out on most of every weekend, from the time they started nursing school until this point. They miss their families and friends, and usually their nursing school co-students become family. If the nursing student is a parent, they feel guilty for the times they miss with their kids, and the moments when they have to say, “I can’t because I have to study now”. If the nursing student is married, they miss the movie/date/travel/play time with their spouse (ok, that may be my thoughts anyways). They miss sleeping in. They miss reading leisurely, something other then nursing text. But, with all of that comes a great reward, the ability to impact peoples lives by caring for them. Nursing, in my opinion, must be one of the most rewarding careers ever. To be able to help people in their most vulnerable moments, to critically think about another person’s condition and come up with a plan, and to care for an individual holistically, IS rewarding. So, as I stood back and watched these nursing students walk in the building I could not help but to feel proud of them for all their hard work. I could not help but feel inspired. Each and every one of them has worked so hard to be where they are and they sacrificed so much, but it will be SO worth it. And they will be the ones who care for you and I when we’re sick or hurt, which is so much more complex then you could imagine (unless you’re a nurse). That makes me proud.
I stand back and watch the scene unfold before me in the lobby, with a small smile and a warm sense of sentiment, because I know I’ll be standing there in a year, wearing all white and meeting my family to celebrate. It’s won’t be the cheers, the “congrats”, the flowers, the “all white”, or the kind words from family and friends that will make me happiest when I graduate, but the fact that I have finally achieved one of my life long goals and dreams of becoming a nurse. I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was 10 years old, and even though I took a different path and I started later then I expected, it was the perfect timing, and I can’t wait to be there.
The thing that pushed me over the top in regards to sentimentality, was when my friend Janet walked up behind me and wrapped her arms around me in a big hug. Like I said before, Janet is married and a busy mom of two daughters, with a commitment to a hospital shift every week. This is my story exactly. When I saw her dressed in all white with the happiest smile on her face, I felt so proud of her. Then her family walked in. Tim, her husband, was glowing and the girls carried posters that said, “Way to go mommy” and “Great job mommy”. I got to witness their excitement as a family. I got to see how proud the girls were of their mommy and how proud Tim was of his wife. I quickly snapped a few shots because it was beautiful. Janet’s girls kind of remind me of my girls, which made me even more sentimental. Janet and I did not get to graduate together like we had planned in A&P 1, but she helped me keep going, in the times when I felt overwhelmed (and she probably isn’t even aware of her impact). And, next year at this time, I’ll walk into that same building wearing all white with the biggest most proudest smile on my face. But for now, I’m gonna enjoy every second of this beautiful summer with my beautiful family.
Congrats to you my dear friend Janet. You make me feel proud and inspired.