The COVID-19 pandemic may be keeping SUNY Broome from holding this year’s traditional commencement ceremony this May. Still, it won’t stop the Nursing Program from celebrating their 56 program graduates as they prepare to enter the workforce. 

“Possibly at no time in the history of our college have our graduating nurses been more important to our community,” said SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm. “We are so proud to send them to hospitals and clinics across the region and so very proud of every one of them for their additional accomplishments in making it through the current crisis. They are SUNY Broome tough and additionally COVID-19 tough.”

SUNY Broome’s Student Nurses’ Association made plans to celebrate fellow graduates despite not being able to gather face-to-face. 

 “It was incredibly challenging to decide to cancel the ceremony we had worked so hard to plan,” says Alexander Button, President of the SUNY Broome Nurses Association. “Deciding to hold a virtual ceremony instead was heart-wrenching, as I knew it would be less than my classmates deserved, but the officers and I were determined to make it special nonetheless.” 

The Nursing Pinning Ceremony is an event the club officers of the Student Nurses’ Association have been planning and fundraising for over a year. It’s a tradition that stretches back to the time of Florence Nightingale and the founding of the nursing profession and is immensely meaningful to nursing school graduates. Taking it to a virtual platform was something that the club has never done and required a creative twist to keep the tradition alive. 

On Wednesday, May 20th, Alex and his peers held the first-ever virtual Nursing Pinning Ceremony. “It turned out to be a wonderful event,” says Alex. “Each of our brand new graduate nurses were at home in our white scrubs, some accompanied by friends or family. We had the opportunity to listen to the well-wishes from SUNY Broome President Dr. Kevin Drumm, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Penny Haynes, Dean of Health Sciences Dr. Amy Brandt, Nursing Dept. Chair Dr. Susan Seibold-Simpson, and one of our beloved faculty members Professor Roseanne West.”

In a Zoom webinar room, more than 60 attendees celebrated the graduating nursing class of 2020; a YouTube live stream broadcast the event to more than 250 other households of proud friends and family members. 

“After being honored by the guest speakers, each graduate had their turn to be featured on screen, to pin themselves or be pinned by a friend or family member, and convey their gratitude to those who made their journey possible, Alex explains. “Although it perhaps lacked the grandiosity of the Ice Center filled with shouting people, it ended up being a more intimate event that allowed for each new nurse to have a more personal interaction with the ceremony in many ways.”

Virtual Nursing Pinning Ceremony

“They are an extraordinary group,” says Susan M. Seibold-Simpson, Chair of the Nursing Department at SUNY Broome. “When the Governor’s office asked for volunteers who would be willing and able to help out, the vast majority of our students signed on” She explains that, “our students care for and about each other and provide support to keep everyone moving forward. They have a strong, active, and engaged Nursing Student Organization that has been helping them develop a culminating celebration despite not being able to be together in person.” 

The nursing class of 2020 plans to keep in touch, and when the social distancing guidelines allow for safe gathering, they will be able to celebrate their achievements face to face.

“This class of nurses has always inspired me personally with their big hearts and dedication to the art and science of nursing,” says Button. “I am honored to count myself among them, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say we can’t wait to get to work, make our mark on the profession, and do our part to put an end to this crisis.”

As SUNY Broome continues planning efforts to congratulate the resilient class of 2020, a unique Virtual Celebration will be held on July 25th to acknowledge the exceptional hard work, strength, and determination of this year’s graduating class. Since the shift to online learning in mid-March, all across the state students have been participating in virtual online coursework and assignments in place of face-to-face interactions. Susan says she is proud of her students’ determination and that even during this unprecedented time, “the students have given the virtual activities their complete attention; many of them have small children at home and work as well as attend classes.” She says that even though some students may be anxious about having been out of the clinical setting, “they know they have been well-prepared. The virtual clinical activities that they are engaging in now are further preparing them to “think like a nurse” even if they cannot interact with actual patients.” 

The culmination of effort, dedication, and sacrifice of this year’s nursing program graduates will allow them to contribute to the health and wellness of our community. Many local healthcare facilities will look to SUNY Broome for graduates armed with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to hit the ground running in their new careers. 

“Lourdes Ascension continues to reap the benefits of hiring SUNY Broome students to our Radiology-Tech positions, RN-Graduate and Registered Nurse positions, Phlebotomy, Security, Food & Nutrition, Medical Assistant, Coding, HIMS, and more.” Says Sharon Collette, Manager of Ascension Talent Acquisition for Lourdes. “They graduate with excellent foundational knowledge in their field, which paves the way for their ability to gain meaningful employment with local organizations such as Lourdes Ascension.”

“In our experience, students who graduate from SUNY-Broome are ready to serve others, and they are set up for success throughout their college experience,” Collette explains. “This is an exciting time to be a Nurse or a healthcare professional. This is the time where critical thinking skills and the direct practice of providing patient care will be sharpened, refined, and perfected. Nurses today will be at the forefront of helping to create best-practice solutions to prevent, treat, and care for patients affected by COVID-19.”

 “The SUNY Broome Health Science Program benefits the health and well-being of our community by supporting our ongoing need for qualified nursing professionals.  The nurses who graduate from SUNY Broome and come to work in our organization bring great value to our team.  They are dedicated individuals, responding to the call to serve others,” said Kay Boland, RN, senior vice president, chief operating officer, and chief nursing officer at UHS. “The new graduates are entering nursing at a unique time in the history of healthcare, one that is both challenging and rewarding.  They are eager to learn and grow as professionals, and that will serve them well.”

As SUNY Broome’s Nursing Program graduates finish out the spring semester, they begin to look forward to entering the workforce alongside their peers. 

Gina Decker

Gina Decker, a non-traditional student, is looking forward to working with her peers and knows, “they’ve worked very hard to be an RN, and I know the dedication and sacrifices we have all made to get there. Thorough clinical instructors have taught us all from day one, and we all want the best for our patients.” Decker also says that she is confident SUNY Broome has fully prepared her to enter the career field. “The Nursing Program has given me a strong foundation under my feet as I enter the nursing field through classroom teachings and extensive clinical experience in several different nursing fields.”

Hanna Conrad

 Hanna Conrad, a recent graduate of the program, says, “We are in a time where nurses are much needed. I am excited to get started and help where I can. I am so thankful for the instructors and professors who pushed and encouraged us to do our best in every aspect. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for those who had faith we could do it.” Hanna offers these words of encouragement, “Work hard and be committed! Be confident, but not overly. Believe in yourself and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and with determination, you will get there.”

In closing, Alex offered these words to his peers. “I think one of our nursing textbooks referred to nurses as the “fulcrum” of patient care. We are the ones who will be at the front lines, by our patient’s side, keeping a watchful, knowledgeable eye on them day in day out. I could not be more proud to call myself a member of this class of nurses, and I can’t wait to work alongside you where we all now know we should be. We did it y’all, and at the end through a once-in-a-century global pandemic. If we can do this, we can do anything.”