While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many school graduations to be cancelled, the nursing staff at Memorial Hospital made sure to honor their graduating student nurses with a traditional ceremony on Wednesday welcoming these new nurses to their profession.
Wednesday also happened to be National Nurses Day.
“A pinning ceremony is an invitation to graduates to join the nursing profession,” said Shauna Ross, RN, a member of the Memorial staff. “These students have all done their clinical rotations here and have worked hard.”
The nine students have all completed their school requirements, eight from White Mountains Community College and one from University of Southern Maine. White Mountain Community College needed in-person classes in March and finished their semester using virtual classrooms.
Each of the students was awarded a pin. Usually, the nursing pin represents the student’s nursing school. Since their school pins were not available, Memorial awarded pins usually presented to recognize outstanding service by employees. Students also recited the Nightingale Pledge, promising to “practice my profession faithfully.” Joining them were a dozen or so other hospital nurses gathered to congratulate these new professionals and also reflect on their own service as nurses.
Memorial Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Kris Dascoulias says nursing can be “pretty rough.” It is a profession she says, “that requires extreme knowledge and a willingness to put others above yourself. As you start your journey. Remember you are not alone. As a nursing graduate, you have earned the right to wear a nursing pin.”
Among those receiving was Nicholas Dukehart from Conway, N.H., who began work at the hospital in February as part of the emergency management team. A paramedic since 2006, he was ready for the next step in his health care career. Nursing, he says, “allowed me to go into different specialties such as the ICU and the OR as well as the emergency department.” His background as a paramedic also helped as the hospital’s planning and response to COVID-19 coincided with his first days on the job.
Paige Lautenschlager, of Madison, N.H., also received and unexpected pandemic experience as part of her final nurse training. “It’s frightening to be thrown into this [pandemic]. It was also interesting to get my professors’ and co-workers’ viewpoints” as the situation evolved. She adds, “They also say ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best.’ We were well prepared.” Lautenschlager chose to work as part of the hospital’s medical surgical team due to the variety of challenges. “You get the elective surgery, patients from the ER, sometimes pediatrics. It’s never the same.”
The students were very complimentary of their college instructors, especially their response to teaching after classes were suddenly moved to an online format. “It was a hard time for everybody,” Lautenschlager said. “Usually nursing is hands on and we had a lot left to learn. They did an amazing job in putting things together at the last minute and using the resources they had. I’m grateful for it.” She also complimented her Memorial co-workers who often stepped in to teach “They were always showing me things, asking questions. Always looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge.”
Memorial has extended job offers to all of their graduating student nurses, a situation an acknowledgement of the quality of this class and the way they have handled the extraordinary of their final semester. Each student’s final licensure will be determined after sitting for the NCLEX exam, the national nursing boards. Schedules for the NCLEX remain unclear due to COVID-19. Until then, students can work as graduate nurses under the supervision of a registered nurse.
Graduates from White Mountains Community College:
Graduate from University of Southern Maine:
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH. It is a member of the MaineHealth integrated health care system. Memorial hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, imaging services, cardiopulmonary care, family birthing center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services. Practices include primary care and family medicine, diabetes care, behavioral health, women's health, podiatry, orthopedics and physical therapy. Additional Memorial facilities include The Merriman House nursing home and Mount Washington Valley Adult Day Center providing senior care services in a comfortable, home-like setting.