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RCC holds combined nurse pinning and Health Sciences commencement

Rappahannock Community College (RCC) celebrated the graduation of nurses and paramedics at Commencement exercises May 9 at Essex High School. Forty-five individuals earned an associate of applied science in nursing (ADN), 27 earned a practical nursing (PN) certificate and 11 earned a paramedic career studies certificate (EMS).

Family, friends, faculty, staff and RCC board members celebrated the accomplishments of the students. The event began as assistant professor of nursing Aryah Williams performed an a cappella version of the national anthem.

Board chairman Jamie Tucker greeted the audience with her story about receiving excellent care from nursing staff. “When you’re a nurse, you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours. And I can tell you that my life was touched by a nurse. Last year I was hospitalized for a serious surgery. It was one that required diligent care, constant checking on me, and round-the-clock vitals and injections,” said Tucker.

“I had a nurse who was wonderful. That nurse showed me compassion, patience and empathy. He was very skilled at what he had to do to help me. He listened. He encouraged. And he asked what more he could do to make me feel better or ease my concerns.,” continued Tucker.

“I looked forward to when he came on shift because I knew he had my back. And I attribute much of my healing to him, for I could rest when he was on duty, knowing that I had the care I required right outside my door. And the best thing about him…he graduated from RCC’s nursing program. What I would hope for each of you, is that you would be that kind of nurse,” she said.

Dean of Health Sciences Ellen Koehler offered words of advice, “Tonight you are surrounded by family and friends—a physical representation of support. We have been here throughout your journey, and I hope that you always feel that support,” she said.

The nurse pinning ceremony is a symbolic welcoming of nurses by other nurses to the profession. Many students selected someone who inspired and encouraged them through their journey as their “pinners,” including family members and faculty who are nurses themselves.

The EMS paramedic graduates received a commemorative Paramedic Challenge coin provided by the Peninsulas EMS Council Inc. The coin represents membership and identity, provides morale and serves as a reminder of their accomplishment.

In addition to receiving their diploma and nurse pin, several students received awards. Cassandra Russell and Tiffany Kesner received the Perseverance Award for ADN students, and Yvette Blue and Ebonie Jones for PN.

Amber Hixson and Kristin Tucker received the Preceptorship Award for ADN students and Veronica Oquendo and Benjamin Asare for PN.

Samantha Blakiewicz and Jazmin Salters received the Outstanding Clinical Achievement Award for ADN and Kaitlyn Ketch and Cheyenne Newsome for PN.

The Catherine Courtney Award is given in honor of professor emeritus Catherine Courtney, the first nursing program faculty member. Courtney dedicated 32 years to teaching at RCC and continues her commitment to RCC as a member of the educational foundation board. Recipients are ADN students Amber Edington and Nicole Dunmire. Courtney was on stage to congratulate the recipients.

Several students created a special Peer Recognition Award for a PN graduate and it was given to Suttinee Weik for exhibiting humor, friendliness and caring and going out of her way to ensure everyone had the class materials, support and snacks.

After the awards, pinning and distribution of diplomas, each group faced the audience with lit candles symbolizing Florence Nightingale as the “lady with the lamp,” and recited their respective pledges promising to adhere to the code of ethics, do no harm, maintain confidentiality and strive for excellence.

Dr. Shannon Kennedy, president of RCC, conferred the degrees and presented the graduates to the audience.

“The value of what you provide to the community is truly immeasurable,” said Kennedy. “Now, as you prepare to take your licensure exams and begin working in your field, I want to leave you with the words of Mother Theresa that I find so meaningful for healthcare providers. Mother Theresa said, ‘It is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing.’ Congratulations class of 2024!”

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