August 25, 2000

Nursing students pin hopes on top-notch education

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Anjelsa Collada gets a hand from her mother Elsa with her professional nursing pin after the pinning ceremony for graduates of VUSN’s Master of Science in Nursing program. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Nursing students pin hopes on top-notch education

At orientation earlier this week, Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., addresses incoming School of Nursing students. (photo by Dana Johnson)

At orientation earlier this week, Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., addresses incoming School of Nursing students. (photo by Dana Johnson)

For nearly 30 years, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has continued the tradition of pinning its graduates upon completion of their academic and clinical requirements.

At a ceremony held Aug. 13, 226 graduates received the school pin, which originated in 1928.

As one class moves on, another arrives. Earlier this week, Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of VUSN, welcomed the school’s newest class. The 225 new students will focus on 10 areas of nursing specialty, with family nurse practitioner and acute care nurse practitioner the two largest specialties. Of the 225 new students, 114 are already registered nurses; the remaining 102 are entering the master’s program for their first professional degree in nursing.

The summer pinning ceremony is a time when nursing students can celebrate their accomplishments outside of the traditional pomp and circumstance during May commencement exercises.

For Dee Johnson, the pinning ceremony was the culmination of a year’s worth of juggling — family, classes, and recreation.

“This past year has been a tremendous challenge,” says Johnson, father of four. “There have been many times I have asked myself, was this the right thing to do? Now as I see the end is here, I can say it was well worth it.

“I have a lot of satisfaction in knowing I accomplished my goals. I am 44 years old and I have waited all these years to figure out what I wanted to do. Trying to figure out what I wanted to get my advanced degree in. This ceremony allows us to celebrate our accomplishments.”

Johnson received his degree from the psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner program. He says his work as an administrator, his passion for people and his love for counseling led him to VUSN.

Johnson worked for many years as the manager of the Ortho Clinic and later became the administrative director for VMG Network Practices prior to enrolling at the nursing school.

“I wanted to be able to provide intervention to help employees, peers and coworkers with day-to-day stressors,” he says. “The primary thing is that when I look at my life and my life’s work, I’ve always stressed that you have to do something you feel passionate about and I feel passionate about people and being of some help to them.”

Johnson says the rigorous academic schedule of nursing school is reason to celebrate successfully completing the program.

He is not the only one happy about celebrating.

Jason Armstrong, 25, earned his family nurse practitioner degree. He hopes to combine his newly acquired degree and his love for Spanish to do third-world missionary work or provide care for migrant Hispanic populations in the U.S.

It is his love for Spanish that drew him into the nurse practitioner field.

During a trip to Guatemala in 1997, he served as an interpreter for a medical group. He saw first-hand the work nurse practitioners do.

“I had already applied to VUSN, but I was still unsure until I spent time with that group. I knew then it was something I would be interested in doing.”

Rich Johnson, 25, already has his next few months mapped out. As a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, Johnson will ship out in a few weeks with his unit to Kosovo.

But upon his return next year, he hopes to begin working in Vanderbilt’s Trauma Unit.

“Before I became a nurse, my main interest was medicine,” Johnson admits. “But the military offered to send me to school for an LPN and once I got into it, I discovered I really liked it.”

Johnson came through the Bridge Program at VUSN. He obtained his Master’s in Nursing in Acute Care.