There is a tradition going back to 1893, honored each year at BMCC.
That, of course, is the Pinning Ceremony, founded by celebrated English nurse Florence Nightingale, and held recently in BMCC’s vast Theater I to honor 84 graduates of the nursing program wearing classic white nurse dress uniforms, or white suits.
“So proud of you, Boo!”
Each graduate sported a red rose in his or her breast pocket, some wiping tears as they waved to the flashing cameras and cheers of over 200 family members and friends.
At one point in the ceremony, they held candles that symbolized their commitment to the ethics of nursing, and faculty members fastened the BMCC nursing pin to their lapels.
Led by Nursing Professor Susan Brillhart, the graduates repeated aloud, the International Pledge for Nurses, which highlights respect for diversity, privacy and support of the medical team.
“So proud of you, Boo!” a family member called from the audience.
“Nursing isn’t just a profession, it’s a calling, a way of life,” Professor Jacqueline Nichols, Chair of the Nursing department, told the graduates.
“Our faculty is tough, but at the end of the day, you’ll be fully prepared and ready for that licensure exam."
“My mother was an RN.”
BMCC Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, Sadie Bragg welcomed the graduates, as did BMCC President Antonio Pérez.
“If I’m on the elevator and it’s full of students, I know they’re nurses because they’re always quizzing each other,” President Pérez told the audience.
“My mother was an RN, so I know what you’ve gone through,” said Dean for Academic Programs and Instruction, Erwin Wong. “I remember her bedroom surrounded by books like a fortress.”
Likewise, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Michael Gillespie shared that, “My mother was pinned in 1948…I think I was the only kid on my block who knew that ‘A & P’ [which stands for Anatomy and Physiology], was more than just a grocery store.”
Inspiration from a keynote speaker
Dr. Kenya Beard, an Assistant Professor of Nursing at Hunter College, CUNY, delivered the keynote address.
“Staying up till 3 a.m. writing and rewriting case plans—sound familiar?” she asked the graduates, who called out a collective, “Yes!”
Looking back on her 26-year nursing career, Dr. Beard credited nursing school for giving her “the courage to work with AIDS patients in the eighties, to work 16-hour shifts and stay strong for families losing their loved ones.”
“In the nineties, some institutions replaced nurses with technicians,” she said, “but nurses can’t be replaced with technicians. Without nurses, the patients’ length of stay increases, and patient outcomes suffer.”
Today, she said, nurses in the United States “are three million strong. But we need to be more diverse.”
Also, “in 2008, only a third of nurses have baccalaureate degrees,” she said, urging the graduates to continue their education.
A challenging program
Completion of the rigorous BMCC nursing program is indeed something to celebrate.
Students must have a 3.6 GPA just to enter the program, which provides courses in medical-surgical care, pediatric, obstetrics and psychiatric nursing care, anatomy, physiology, and other areas.
“The students also complete clinical rotations, working side-by-side with nurses, doctors, and medical students at Lincoln Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital Center, Harlem Hospital Center and other public and private hospitals throughout New York City,” said Professor Nichols.
“Not only that, they learn to deliver culturally sensitive care to the diverse patient population they’ll serve in New York City.”
Graduates earn an Associate in Applied Science degree with a major in Nursing, and are eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (RNs).
Many go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and specialize in areas as diverse as geriatrics, critical care and forensic investigations.
A new world for nurses
“The Pinning Ceremony welcomes our graduates to a community of nurses that has changed dramatically since the tradition began,” said Professor Nichols.
“Nurses are a critical part of today's medical treatment team, which relies on their ability to quickly measure, assess and report a patient’s condition,” she said.
“Also, new technologies for patient care are constantly emerging, so today’s RN must be able to quickly integrate new protocols into their skill set. I’m so very proud of the talented men and women graduating from the BMCC nursing program, which is one of the most rigorous in the City."
The rewards of hard work
This year’s Pinning Ceremony presented the Nursing Award for Academic Excellence to Alina Cobzaru, Bo Cho, Lillian Reilly and Carol Blagrove.
The Professional Development Award went to Deveika Churaman, Sharon Lee and Carol Blagrove, while the Nursing Humanitarian Award went to Andreia Gameleiradamonta, Gregory Francis, Derik Dmitri and Preston Addae.
The Best All-Around Student Award was presented to Katie Vacante, Rosa Rodriguez and Nancy Aponte, and the Aubrey T. Robinson Award for Leadership, Intelligence, Compassion and Humor went to Stewart Weinberg.
The Sylvia Vincent Corliss Award for Intelligence, Caring, and Humor was presented to Yelena Borukhova.
A catered reception followed the Pinning Ceremony, and graduates holding bouquets of flowers posed for photos with their families, friends, professors, and fellow nurses.