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Welcome, New Grads, to the Best Profession in the World!

Posted Nov 03 2008 9:02pm

Graduations are special events. It has been more than a few years, but I remember the excitement of my high school graduation. It wasn’t so much a feeling of relief to have made it through 12 years of public school as it was the exhilaration of moving on into uncharted territory. At the end of summer I’d be leaving my little town of 1,400 salt-of-the-earth souls and moving to the big city, a two hour drive away (but, out-of-state, nonetheless), to begin a hospital-based diploma nursing program.

On day one of that program three years seemed like an eternity—and, believe me, there were single days during those three years that were an eternity unto themselves—but graduation rolled around surprising quickly. Again, I was awash with excitement. My first real job, in or out of nursing, awaited me and I was so rarin’ to go that I allowed myself just one week off between graduation and permanent employment. I didn’t consider the fact that, once on the job, I wouldn’t be entitled to a vacation for a full year. I was 20 years old. What did I know?

Nursing has changed in the ensuing years, as have nursing students. Instead of a gaggle of wet-behind-the-ears barely-twenty somethings, schools are graduating significant numbers of older students with more life experience and, I assume, more maturity.

This week I answered a knock at my door to see my neighbor, Kerry, who lives two doors down, standing on my porch, grinning from ear-to-ear, an envelope in her outstretched hand. I took it, opened it and felt the same excitement I’d felt all those years ago, along with a huge sense of relief for Kerry. The envelope held the announcement of her graduation from the local community college’s two-year nursing program.

Kerry is 39 years old, a wife and mother of two children, ages 10 and 12. She is an EMT and an ER tech but she wanted more—more education, more job and financial security, more job flexibility, and she knew nursing would give her all of that. The process took five years. She navigated the sea of pre-requisites and, then, the nursing program while juggling the rearing of, with her husband’s help, two amazing, polite and responsible children and her job as an ER tech in a town 20 miles from home. I was touched by the hand-written note inside the announcement: "It takes a family to graduate a nurse."

I know Kerry’s story is being repeated thousands of different ways across this country and I am chagrined to think how easy I had it compared to today’s multi-tasking students. I offer to Kerry, and all new graduates, my sincere congratulations and admiration for their perseverance in the pursuit of their goals. I know it hasn’t been easy but the results are worth every sacrifice. Welcome!

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