August 23, 2017
By Greg Peters
The annual Nightingale Ceremony welcoming a new class of undergraduate nursing students to the University of Kansas is generally a day filled with firsts: the first time on campus for many of the students; the first time being cloaked in their white laboratory coats; and the first time being part of the KU School of Nursing Class of 2019.
In addition to all the usual first-time activities, two other items of note stood out among all the inaugural activities and honors that made up this year's Nightingale Ceremony. First was the addition of students from the new University of Kansas School of Nursing-Salina. Next was the opening of the new $82 million Health Education Building where nursing students will be able to learn alongside their peers from the Schools of Health Professions and Medicine.
"You are about to start on one of the most exciting, hard and rewarding times in your life," Sally Maliski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the School of Nursing, told the students and their families assembled in Battenfeld Auditorium for the event Aug. 18. "You've chosen to enter the profession of nursing, and this profession has limitless possibilities for what you can become. You've chosen to come to KU for this education, and we have chosen you. I think we both have chosen wisely."
The highlight of the day came when each of the students was called to the platform to don their white lab coats and receive their Gold Humanism and academic society pins. Twelve students from the School of Nursing-Salina were the first to be inducted into the new Roberta Thiry Society. This year, the Thiry Society took its place along with the Pearl L. Laptad, S. Milo Hinch, Henrietta Froehlke and E. Jean M. Hill societies, which have been in place since 2011 at KU Medical Center.
"I feel really honored because we're the inaugural class and everyone will know us, and we'll be able to set traditions for all the classes that come after us," said Sarah Medlock from Abilene. "It's a big honor. I've never been involved in anything like this. My parents are both here. I'm excited to start something fresh."
"I can't wait to see where it goes and to watch KU grow within Salina," added her classmate Vanessa Torres from Salina. "I feel honored to be part of Salina's first class."
Robert D. Simari, M.D., interim executive vice chancellor and executive dean of the School of Medicine, greeted the 126 Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) students, extending a special welcome to the dozen BSN students from the Salina program. He also noted the great number of opportunities for interprofessional education that will be provided by the state-of-the-art facilities of the Health Education Building.
"The School of Nursing will receive the same warm welcome that has been crucial to the success of the School of Medicine," he said. "We will be kindred spirits as pioneers along the prairie. As such, I would like to extend you a special welcome."
"The Nightingale Ceremony is a really big deal because it helps introduce you to the nursing community at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the School of Nursing in Salina," said Jhade Gray from Junction City. "In Salina, everybody in the community has been really welcoming and glad that we're there."
During her keynote address, Jerrihlyn McGee, DNP, RN, CNE, program director for the leadership programs in the School of Nursing, discussed the leadership role of baccalaureate-prepared nurses and provided some essential principles for success in nursing school and life. Her principles ranged from finding one's passion, to gracefully accepting constructive criticism, to realizing that each person is responsible for his or her own success. She encouraged students to learn from their failures and to pair inspiration with discipline in their personal and professional lives. McGee said many successful leaders attribute their accomplishments with personal discipline.
"The key in life is that your desire for success has to be greater than your fear of failure," McGee said. "All of the greats have made mistakes, and a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. Expect challenges because those challenges prepare you for the next level."
On a day filled with excitement and anticipation about the launch of the next step in their academic careers, some of the students shared their stories about what motivated them to enter nursing school. And while many of the stories had a familiar theme, nearly all of them had a very personal tone.
"Being a medic in the Air Force inspired me to become a nurse," said Conor Burns, a member of the Froehlke Society from Carbondale, Kansas. "I grew my passion for nursing working in emergency rooms in military hospitals working alongside those nurses."
"I joined nursing because I had family members who were in the hospital, and the nurses who took care of them really inspired me," said Josephine Baker, a Laptad Society member from Tonganoxie. "They made me want to become the best that I could be for other people's families."
Perhaps no one in the Class of 2019 traveled as far or took as circuitous a path to a career in nursing as Shuai Lu, who came to KU seven years ago from China to study accounting. Along the way to becoming part of the first class of nursing students in Salina, he volunteered in a hospital intensive care unit in Lawrence and spent a brief stint as a respiratory therapist in Kansas City, Missouri. These twists and turns helped Lu find a career in nursing and a passion for working in the ICU.
'When I came to KU, I majored in accounting - nothing related to health care," said Lu. "I had enough free time to do volunteer service at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. While I was doing my volunteer service, I developed a great passion for working in the intensive care unit.
"Then I worked as a respiratory care therapist in the ICU at Truman Medical Center for nearly a year, and the nurses were so smart and well-educated that it inspired me to do more, so I decided to apply to nursing school."
In closing, McGee paused to acknowledge the strife that Americans face, adding some poignant thoughts about the role nurses and these BSN candidates can play in calming the challenges faced by members of society. "In these times of physical, social and political unrest, nurses have the responsibility to help provide calm safe environments for positive communication and healing," she said. "Each of us can and should try to make a difference in other's lives every day no matter where we are, or where we practice nursing."