Good evening friends, family, faculty, and of course my class of fellow nurses (almost!). I am honored to have been chosen to address you today as your friend and someone who’s life has truly been changed by knowing all of you and by being a part of this program. For the last four years, we’ve had the privilege of being known as the first class of nurses that will graduate from IU School of Nursing Fort Wayne. We’ve worn our red scrubs, which stood out so predominantly against the sea of blue scrubs that it practically shouted, “I’m a student!” Everyone in our clinical sites asked about these scrubs and then we got to try to explain how yes, IPFW became Purdue Fort Wayne, but the nursing school is now IU when it was Purdue before, and they used to wear navy scrubs, and now we wear red scrubs…. And so on. We’ve had comments both good and bad about those bright red scrubs. And now, we get to retire them.
As the first graduating class of IUFW School of Nursing, we’ve been asked to give our feedback every step of the way, and we’ve heard more times than we can count, “We’ll make that change for the next class, thanks for your feedback.” To the classes that follow us, you’re welcome.
We’ve been encouraged, supported, corrected, and guided by our professors. We’ve had professors who’ve cheered us on as we struggle through the mountain of work that is nursing school, and we’ve had professors who have laughed and cried with us at every turn. (How you doin’ Dr. Hines? You have your tissues ready today??)
Most of us started out at the beginning of this journey as strangers. We sat in our Anatomy and Physiology lecture and looked around, trying to determine which students would be applying to the nursing program and with whom we would end up spending the next four years. We took the TEAS test, applied to the program, and thankfully, received the word that we were admitted. Then the fun began! We got to start learning nursing skills and how to assess our first (creepy looking) patients in the sim lab. How many of you remember thinking those Health Assessment tests were challenging? And NOW who wouldn’t like to go back and take one of those tests instead of the Critical Care tests from the fall?? Or take one of those tests instead of this big looming test coming up some of you may have heard of, the NCLEX?
But we grew as student nurses and as a class. We got to know each other and count on each other. Our sim manikins got a bit less creepy (or creepier, depending on how you look at it) when Mr. Wayne Fortier came on the scene. (And, as an aside, I have to say, I think our resident technology guy, Jeremy Kirkwood, may have missed his true calling because his acting skills were on point during sims.) But now, we’ve learned more than just the terms ‘ascites’ and how to assess for PERRLA and take blood pressures. We’ve learned to manage critically ill patients. We’ve learned to work with others to give our patients the best care possible. We’ve learned to read lab values and interpret what they mean for our patient. And we learned that we have what it takes to be a good nurse.
Everything we’ve done within this program has been defined by being a student, by being the first graduating class from this program, and, of course, by attending nursing school during a pandemic. But that’s about to change. My friends, we are ready. We have spent countless hours studying and preparing. We’ve taken exams, written care plans and papers, worked through many case studies, and despite Covid getting in the way of some our clinical experiences, we’ve still been fortunate and have had chances to provide hands-on care. We are ready. Ready to drop the word “student” from our title as student nurses and take on the role of a BSN-prepared registered nurse.
As newly graduated nurses, we may feel unsure of ourselves, we may feel nervous to begin something new, and we may feel underqualified. But may we never forget that we are completely qualified to offer our best to our patients.
Maya Angelou said “As a nurse we have the opportunity to heal the mind, soul, heart, and body of our patients. They may forget your name, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
This. This my friends, is what nursing is about. It’s about taking our critical thinking skills, our assessments, our understanding of pathophysiology, pharmacology, and all of the head knowledge we’ve learned these past four years and applying it to real people.
We are ready to go out into the nursing profession and make this type of difference.
One of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa is this: “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely, and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”
Let us not be ashamed to do the humble work. Let us be a group of nurses that remembers what it feels like to be new at something and take that student nurse under our wings. Let us be a group of nurses that offers ourselves in a way that leaves everyone in our wake a little better than we found them. Hopefully, physically better, yes. But always better. I am proud to have journeyed alongside you all these last four years. I am proud to graduate with you as my peers and as my future colleagues in the nursing profession. To our family and friends, we are forever grateful for the sacrifices you made so that we could succeed. To our faculty and staff, thank you for believing in us. To my fellow nurses, let’s do this. Thank you!