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Nightingale Ceremony welcomes incoming nursing students with message of resilience

The 2020 Nightingale Ceremony at the University of Kansas School of Nursing welcomed the incoming students of the Class of 2022 seeking their bachelor’s degrees in nursing. Elements of the traditional ceremony fused with new precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nursing students in masks and white coats stand before a screen where "Nightingale Ceremony" is shown
Students, faculty and administration of the KU School of Nursing gathered in HEB B102 and B104 for the Nightingale Ceremony. The Class of 2022 has 114 students in Kansas City and 24 in Salina. Photo by Elissa Monroe, KU Medical Center Photo Services

Resilience and commitment were the themes of the 2020 Nightingale Ceremony at the University of Kansas School of Nursing.

The Aug. 21 event was an opportunity to welcome the incoming students of the Class of 2022 seeking their bachelor's degrees in nursing. Elements of the traditional ceremony fused with new precautions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, as was the case in previous years, nursing students gathered together to begin their educational journey in celebration. Unlike previous years, family and friends watched the ceremony online, along with select faculty and staff members.

In Salina, the protocols were repeated, with nursing students and SON faculty congregating on campus to watch the speakers from the Kansas City campus via livestream on a large screen. In both locations, individuals wore masks and followed the suggested social distancing requirements of 6 feet apart.

‘An unprecedented time'

Cynthia Teel, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, associate dean of academic affairs for the KU School of Nursing, welcomed both audiences before turning her attention to the students in front of her, sitting one-per-table, and the students in Salina. also spaced strategically around their room.

Nursing students in white coats and woman at podium

Heather Nelson-Brantley, Ph.D, RN, program director, leadership, KU School of Nursing, leads nursing students in a key element of the Nightingale Ceremony, Recitation of Oath. Photo by Elissa Monroe, KU Medical Center Photo Services

"Students, your experiences over the next two years will be life changing. You are starting your professional education in an unprecedented time, with many things different than ever before," Teel said. "What remains the same, however, is our commitment to you, to prepare you as professional nurses ready to assume your roles in the world's health care systems."

Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center, echoed Teel's comments in his own address, delivered remotely.

"I can promise you that what hasn't changed, even though we're going through this pandemic, is that you're still going to receive the finest nursing education at an outstanding institution," Simari said. "This includes state-of-the-art facilities and best-in-class faculty. We're very proud of both, and we're excited that you can join us."

‘Your ability to be resilient'

The Nightingale Ceremony's keynote speaker, Jerrihlyn L. McGee, DNP, RN, also delivered her remarks remotely. From her office on campus, the vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion began by acknowledging how challenging the year 2020 has been thus far.

Dr. McGee in her office

Jerrihlyn L. McGee, vice chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, presented the keynote address remotely from her office. Screenshot from the online presentation.

"When you think about it, it has not been the kindest year," she said. Brush fires in Australia, the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest leading to protests in our country and around the world: McGee clicked through a slide show of tragedies before revealing the silver lining in the 2020 cloud.

"That silver lining is that we are all here... While you're reflecting on 2020, and where you are today, consider your ability to be resilient," McGee said. "And as you're considering your resiliency, Class of 2022, think about where you go from here. Think about where we go from here as a collective. What is our path forward? How do we chart a new, bold direction?"

McGee ended by encouraging all to use their platform, power, privilege and passion to create change and to exercise their right to vote. "The power of the people will always be more powerful than the people in power," she said.

‘Enjoy this time'

The ceremony itself offered students a chance to see resiliency in action. When Christine Mackay, Ph.D., RN, president of the KU Nurses Alumni Board, had an issue with her audio, McGee presented the keynote a bit earlier than expected. Then Mackay came back later in the program to share her congratulations to the students. "You know, listening to the other panelists, I'm reminded of how lucky I am to be a proud, caring Jayhawk nurse," Mackay said.

Heying wearing mask and white coat outside HEB

Salter wearing mask and white coat outside HEB

Top photo: Mallory Heying. Bottom photo: Sean Salter. Contributed photos.

Sally Maliski, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, dean of the KU School of Nursing, shared some practical advice before reminding students to "enjoy this time. It is truly precious. We are all here to support you and guide you as you work towards your goal of becoming a nurse."

‘The next official step'

Nursing student Mallory Heying said she is "ecstatic" to begin studying within the KU School of Nursing. "The Nightingale Ceremony to me meant the next official step into my journey of becoming a nurse," Heying said. "Taking the oath verified what it means and what it takes to become the best version of what I strive to be as a nurse."

Heying's older brother graduated from the KU School of Nursing in 2019, but Heying said she'd made up her mind to attend the school herself long before he graduated.

"I was thrilled to find out we could both experience one of the best nursing programs out there," she said. Heying said she's ready for some friendly competition on who turns out to be the better student. "I have big shoes to fill, of course! But that competition has brought us even closer together."

‘It made me feel proud'

For nursing student Jailene Garcia, the Nightingale Ceremony was "really special."

"It made me feel proud to be in this nursing program, especially during these hard times," Garcia said. "When I took the oath, it made me realize how important my commitment to nursing is and how grateful I am to have such a great opportunity."

‘The beginning of a new chapter'

Sean Salter, also an incoming nursing student, decided he wanted to be a nurse after working as a respiratory therapist in the U.S. Army. After 11 years in the service, he put on a new uniform: the nursing pin from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation that reflects the values of respect, dignity and compassion; and the white coat that conveys his promise to the nursing profession.

"As I put on the white coat, I realized that it's the beginning of a new chapter in my life and that the next few years of studying will be hard, but the outcome will be extremely rewarding," Salter said.

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