Retiring nursing coordinator Muriel Zraunig gets one of many hugs; Marcie J. Liebenow and 10-day-old daughter Madison; lighting the lamps for the Nurse's Pledge. More photos here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Muriel Zraunig has baked her last batch — of nurses.
The veteran nurse and educator proudly presented on Monday night her sixth graduating class of licensed practical nurses from the McCann Technical School Practical Nursing program.
Zraunig, who retires on Dec. 15 after more than two decades working in Massachusetts schools as a nurse and then as a nursing educator, recalled the first class as the program's director in 2005.
"We called them our first batch of cookies," the program director laughed. "We didn't know how they were going to come out but we were so grateful they took a chance on us.
"I always though of them as snickerdoodles. ... We kept fine tuning the recipes and now we have batch No. 6."
Superintendent of Schools James Brosnan said Zraunig had done 99.5 percent of the work in resurrecting the program that had been closed since 1987 — and he had done the .5. "I provided the resources and she got it done," he said to applause.
The class and faculty extended their appreciation to Zraunig with a gift of a bracelet signifying the circle of care, with three beads symbolizing nursing, life, and comfort and joy.
Program graduate Jason LaForest kidded Zraunig a little but thanked her for her "tough love" and for sharing her "passion for this noble profession."
"You scolded us, you lectured us, encouraged us, entertained us, scared us — you even sent me into defib, and not just once," he said, adding that she often regaled them with stories and her laughter "seemed to come up from the depths of your toes."
"You helped us grow into nurses in our own right."
One of Zraunig's first "cookies," Nancy Olson, told the graduates that their passion would determine their career path. Olson had been trained in psychology and was doing lab work when she decided she wanted a career that would let her work with people.
She's also attended Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Community College and is currently completing coursework for her registered nurse degree at Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y. She has worked in a variety of posts, including as a triage and surgical nurse, as a nurse at the Berkshire County House of Correction and part time as a lab technician for local physicians.
Olson advised the graduates to always act as professionals and not to judge their patients, but to think
they could be their mother, father, brother, sister, or child.
"That gives you the compassion and empathy you need," she said. "You're opening up to them and when they feel that, they come right into your heart."
Zraunig, Brosnan and School Committee Chairman Daniel J. Maloney Jr. presented the diplomas; many of the small class of graduates were "pinned" by mentors also in the nursing profession. Graduate Desiree S. Addy led the graduates in the Nurse's Pledge.
The youngest attendee at the ceremony was also an honorary member of the small class. Little Madison, dressed in white like the graduates, had been born 10 days earlier to Marcie J. Liebenow of Adams, who was determined to make it through the program.
"I had her Saturday and was back in school Tuesday," said Liebenow. "I only missed a day."
Liebenow said she's taking a couple of weeks off to spend some time with Madison before deciding her next step. It was tough, she said, getting through the program and being pregnant at the same time. But it was worth it.
"I would do it all over again," said Liebenow.
Adams: Kayla H. Cooper, Steven J. Griffin and Marcie J. Liebenow
Lenox: Desiree S. Addy
North Adams: Angela L. Ames, Jason M. LaForest, Kathy A. Languirand, Dorcas Wanjiru Waruingi and Karissa A. Weeden
Pittsfield: Lynn M. Clancy, Laurianne V. Hruby, Edwin M. Juelas, Jennifer L. Kelly, Winnie S. Leung and Shelley Smith