Accelerated nursing graduates earn pins to represent their fundamental truths

August 23, 2022

A student is pinned.

The pins worn by 83 graduates of Quinnipiac’s accelerated nursing program are centuries-old symbols of service accented in Bobcat blue-and-gold — blue to represent truth and loyalty, and gold for worthiness.

These are virtues the 21st cohort of accelerated nursing school graduates — who were honored last Friday at a traditional pinning ceremony at Burt Kahn Court — will need when they take their licensing exam and prepare to embark on rewarding careers as registered nurses.

“Be proud to wear that pin,” Dean Lisa O’Connor said in her opening remarks, during which she noted the remarkable growth of a program that dates back to 2001. The inaugural nursing school class featured 19 students — three from the accelerated program — and has since produced hundreds of “bright, ambitious and eager” accelerated students, she said.

A series of speeches reminded the students how far they’ve come in such a compressed time period and urged them to forge onward as skilled and compassionate professionals in a vitally important field.

Marie Spivey, principal and consultant with the System for Education, Equity & Transition, delivered the keynote address. A native of New London who received her EdD and MPA from the University of Hartford, she stressed the importance of identifying and stamping out inequities in the healthcare community and beyond.

Before passing along wisdom the graduates will need for their present and future, she took them on a tour of a forgotten corner of nursing’s past, highlighting a handful of Black nurses whose achievements serve as historical touchstones for the profession.

She also recalled the moment when, as an eighth grader, a tumble off the balance beam in gym class left her with a fractured leg, inspiring her to pursue a nursing career.

A pioneer in her own right, Spivey served the Connecticut Department of Public Health as its first bureau chief of community health and later became Hartford Hospital’s first Black vice president of community involvement.

“Racism is truly a public health crisis that impacts a person’s mental, spiritual and physical health, as well as overall quality of life,” Spivey said.

It was easy to see why Tori Johnston[MA1]  was chosen by both her peers and School of Nursing faculty to deliver the student address. In a lively speech infused with her trademark humor, Johnston joked about administering an IV with the perfect iced coffee dosage to fuel a late-night (or early morning) study session.

“It has been my sincere pleasure to go through this nursing journey with each and every one of you,” Johnston said. “You have all touched my heart. But I won’t cry yet — I won’t. You are tenacious. You are funny. You are hard-working, creative, bold. But most importantly, you are advocates — not just for yourselves, but for each other and for your patients.”

Atikah Fatholrazak received the Jonathan Gaddis ‘15 Humanitarian Award, named for an accelerated nursing alumnus who died in 2017. She was among the 26 graduates who were inducted into the Tau Rho chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing prior to the pinning ceremony.

Founded in 1922, the organization has more than 175,000 members representing over 560 chapters in 100 countries. With a code of love, courage and honor, Sigma Theta Tau prides itself on “placing leaders at all levels of the healthcare industry.”

Warly Remegio, vice president of nursing education and professional development at Hartford Healthcare, served as the keynote speaker for the honors ceremony. He urged the new inductees to listen to their own instincts, to “be self-aware” and “know your purpose and values.”

Acknowledging how in-demand their skills are in these turbulent times for medicine, he praised the honorees for their nobility in choosing to join the frontlines of the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nursing is a fulfilling career, yet we are continuously confronted with tremendous challenges,” Remegio said. “In the last few years of the pandemic, we have selflessly worked hard to care for, protect and safeguard our patients, their families and communities. We’ve lost colleagues who were afflicted with COVID while caring for their patients. We’ve proved to be dependable, dedicated and trusted professionals in spite of the turmoil.

“As we continue to rise and heal, we need the support of each other.”

The new members were called to the stage to receive their purple-and-white honor cords and sign the membership book. Elizabeth Stark, a clinical assistant professor of nursing at Quinnipiac, led the inductees in reciting the membership pledge.

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