It’s that time of year again, when students graduate and families celebrate. Speeches, names called . . . and called and called. Lawns are packed with folding chairs, and the sun beats down and makes everyone sweat.
People gather despite the discomforts because they want to celebrate what students have accomplished and their careers ahead. The graduation ceremony honors the years of hard work, dedication, and determination that students put into their studies. It also marks the moment students turn their knowledge and skills to serving the world.
What about nurses graduating during COVID?
The desire to honor and celebrate graduates is nowhere more intense than for students in the healthcare fields. They will use what they have learned to save lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the value of their work more clear. Now more than ever their family and friends want to celebrate their accomplishments.
Unfortunately COVID-19 has meant that many schools have cancelled traditional graduation ceremonies. But nursing schools and their graduates are finding creative ways to celebrate anyway, to graduate in style, and to capture some of that commencement magic. Here are four ways nursing graduates have found to celebrate during the COVID lockdown.
Virtual ceremony – State College Florida
The State College of Florida decided to hold it’s graduation virtually, where anyone could tune in to witness the event. At one point during the commencement ceremony, graduates of the nursing program were acknowledged. Sarah Cloud, one of the nursing program’s faculty, addressed the graduates by video call. She spoke about the many nursing students who have been working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic while wrapping up their coursework.
Cloud has heard directly from many of these students and shared some of their experiences. From one student’s account, Cloud read, “I’ve held the hands of patients as they passed, and I have rolled patients out the front door to their loved ones, whom they had not hugged in weeks.”
“I have endured painful marks on my face from wearing an N95 mask for 13-plus hours, and scrubbed myself with hot water to hopefully protect my family from this virus. I had seen and felt fear and anxiety like I’ve never felt before.”
Words like these added to the celebrations a note of poignancy. These students have already made difficult choices about how to use their education. Graduates were not able to gather in person, but virtual graduation still brought them together. They were able to hear these stories, honor nursing students, and be inspired to ever higher levels of service.
The president of the college, Dr. Carol Probstfeld, told students, “This is the most unique commencement ceremony in the history of our institution and perhaps one of our most important.”
Drive-thru ceremony – John Brown University
Some have found in-person ways for nursing graduates to celebrate during COVID lockdown. At John Brown University, the traditional graduation was postponed instead of being replaced. The president, Dr. Charles Pollard wrote, “It deeply saddens me to tell you that we must postpone our Spring 2020 commencement ceremony until this fall.”
Fall, however, is a long way away. So, the faculty at the Department of Nursing decided to take matters into their own hands. They came up with their own way to celebrate hard-working graduates: an improvised drive-thru ceremony. Nursing faculty dressed up exactly as they would for a traditional graduation – robe, hat, tassels, and all – and took signs out to the street. As nursing graduates drove by, their teachers cheered them and held up messages celebrating their accomplishment.
Drive-in celebrations – Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences
Other schools, like Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences, are holding drive-in ceremonies. These are different from the drive-thru celebrations at John Brown University. For the drive-in graduations, think drive-in movie. At a drive-in graduation there is still a stage to walk across and physical diplomas to take home. The main difference is that instead of rows of chairs on a lawn, there are rows of cars in a parking lot.
This is a creative way schools like Christ College are doing in-person graduations while maintaining social distancing. Students seem happy with the result. Families get to celebrate graduates as loudly as they want. Who hasn’t wanted to honk a car horn as a loved one walked across the commencement stage?
Dr. Gail Kist-Kline summed it up: “Because of everything going on, we really just thought this was an important opportunity for our students to come together, to be appreciated for all the hard work.”
Nursing graduates celebrate at home – Viral Video of Florida International University student.
If you want a graduation done right, you have to do it yourself. That seems to be what many nursing graduates and their families are thinking. They have found sweet and surprising ways for nursing graduates to celebrate from home during the COVID lockdown. For some, it’s a compilation video where friends and loved ones send their congratulations and well wishes. Other families are finding ways to set up decorations and give that graduation moment – even if it’s at home – a little pomp.
Dancing across the stage
One celebration, however, took the home graduation to another level, and the video has been getting around on social media.
Anabelle Petisco, a nursing graduate of Florida International University, decided to recreate her graduation ceremony at home. Video of the event went viral.
She and her family set up a stage and chairs for the audience. Her brother acted the part of FIU president Mark Rosenburg, even taping a picture of the president’s face to his own and wearing a black robe. The audience was half a dozen family members.
The home-graduation setup was thus complete. In the video that went viral, Petisco is dressed in her academic robes. She processes in front of her family as if crossing a stage. Her brother is waiting for her just like the FIU president at a traditional ceremony. What happens next is what caught everybody by surprise. After Petisco takes her diploma and hugs her brother, they both start dancing! The family cheers and applauds. In the end Petisco pulls off a graduation ceremony like no other. Next up for her is an internship at Niklaus Children’s Hospital where she’s working on the pediatric oncology unit.
Celebrate, nursing graduates!
However it happens, it’s good to see the accomplishment of nursing students being celebrated by family, friends, and faculty. During this time many nursing students have already or will soon be serving on the COVID frontlines. We are all feeling deeply thankful for the knowledge and skills they have worked hard to gain during nursing school.
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