Oct. 16, 2017 | Before embarking on their final two years toward completing their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, members of the UAMS College of Nursing’s class of 2019 stopped to mark their passage into the clinical phase of their education by donning their white coats.
With eager smiles and coats draped over their arm, the 119 students — 99 females and 20 males — wound through hundreds of family and friends to their seats in the front of the room, stopping to wave and pose for pictures along the way. Scores of College of Nursing faculty, staff, alumni and supporters made up the more than 300 audience members at the Oct. 6 ceremony at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock.
“The classes you’ve completed and the skills you’ve learned so far have laid the foundation for you to enter into direct patient care,” said Mark Tanner, D.N.P., R.N., director of the Baccalaureate Program, to the junior B.S.N. students. “All that are here are proud of your accomplishments to this point and have great expectations for your future.”
Rebecca P. Sartini, D.N.P., R.N., assistant director of nursing in the UAMS Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit and College of Nursing alumnae, charged the students to connect with their patients, engage daily in their practice and never stop learning.
“Nursing offers limitless roles in so many areas,” said Sartini. “As you continue your training, find your passion and seek it out. It will be the reason you fall in love with nursing over and over and over.”
The class of 2019 was led in recitation of the Nightingale Pledge by Chet Roberson, the B.S.N. program’s student government president. Then, students were individually called to the stage to slip into their white coats. Loved ones in the audience cheered and applauded as each student walked across the stage and donned the white coat with help from two College of Nursing faculty members.
Following a handshake from Tanner and Donna Middaugh, Ph.D., R.N., the college’s associate dean for academic programs, the students signed an affirmation of the Nightingale Pledge before making another trip around the auditorium, this one a victory lap of sorts.
Before concluding the ceremony and capping the night with a reception, the students received a genuine plea from the patient perspective given by Jerilyn Swalve-Wasson to always love and support their patients and their patients’ families. Wasson’s daughter, Emma, who is now 5, was born with two congenital heart conditions and Turner Syndrome, a rare chromosomal condition that affects development in females, and spent several months in the hospital after birth.
Drawing on her family’s personal experiences with Emma, Wasson reminded the students a nurse plays many roles for patients and families, including that of teacher, advocate, counselor and friend.
Wasson said she and her husband celebrated birthdays and holidays with their nurses, who were their biggest cheerleaders and advocates throughout Emma’s hospital stay.
“They were positive when we thought we had nothing to be positive about, they didn’t allow us to give up,” said Wasson. “Our nurses became family.”
Wasson thanked the students “for choosing this path to become more than just a nurse.”