Thirteen graduates were pinned by faculty, mentors, friends and family members involved in nursing and received their diplomas from School Committee Chairman Daniel J. Maloney Jr.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The newest graduates of the McCann Technical School Practical Nursing Program were urged on Tuesday night not to lose sight of their mission as they embarked upon their careers.
"Our mission and our work is to take care of people," said Elizabeth A. Kirby, director of education at Berkshire Health Systems and longtime advisory board member. "It's as simple as that ... it's for the very important human beings entrusted to our care."
Nursing isn't the easiest work, she warned the 13 graduates as they awaited their pinning ceremony before friends and family in the McCann gym. "Ours is a demanding profession. We deal with very sad things, we deal with very difficult things almost daily ... death, unhappiness."
Yet they will also find that with difficulties, come miracles: babies born, cancer sufferers cured, and trauma patients save "because you were there to help."
Superintendent James Brosnan chided the solemn graduates they should be proud of their success and that "there should be a lot more smiles on that side of the room," which evoked grins. "Because of your perseverance, a great faculty and the terrific support of your family and friends you are here tonight," he said. "We are very proud of you and wish you success."
They weren't always serious, said student speaker Brandi Nicole Young, who recalled the nervous, shared, happy and bittersweet laughter (of sometimes "sleep-deprived overworked slightly hallucinating students") that had accompanied their 10-month journey and bonded them as a group.
She called out each of her classmates by name to "Thank you for sharing your laughter with me."
Muriel Zraunig, practical nursing coordinator, said that at 13, the class was the smallest to graduate from the program but their accolades had been great.
"I have had so many many positive comments from all of the agencies, the people in the community who have been acquainted with you, they're always saying what a great group," said Zraunig, who urged them to continue to be cooperative, not competitive, as nurses.
Families were on hand for congratulations; Elizabeth Kirby, a registered nurse and nursing educator, urged the graduates not to forget why they are nurses. See more photos here.
Kirby said they were joining a profession that dated back to the Crusades, when proto-medics garbed in white-crossed tunics scoured the battlefields seeking to aid the fallen. The nurses pinning ceremony had been a rite of passage for nurses for more than a century, its roots to be found in modern nursings most famous founders Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale.
The symbols on the pins vary by school but often stand for steadfastness, compassion, kindness, said Kirby, pointing to the religious symbol on her pin, as a graduate of the former St. Luke's School of Nursing. For McCann students, the symbol is Nightingale's lamp, a sign they are expected to be courageous, kind, and comforting.
Don't lose sight of the mission, said Kirby, or risk disillusion and burnout. Remember the patient is a person, she said, telling the graduates to listen with their hearts as she read the poem "What Do You See, Nurse?"
"Don't ever forget why you are nurse," she said. "Don't ever ever forget how important you are."
Denise Marie Eason
Sarah A. Harpin
Satira M. Hayes
Tabatha Lynn Larabee
Shawn Owen Merrimen
Amy Montgomery Nowlan
Wendy C. Ramos
Ann Marie Scapin
Kristina Elizabeth Shallies
Joseph P. Vitro
Ashley M. Wasuk
James R. White Jr.
Brandi Nicole Young
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