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Being a nurse requires skill as well as a certain spirit, said Mary Schroeder, program chair of the RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at University of Maryland University College, in her remarks at the university’s inaugural Nursing Convocation on May 15.

“Ours is a selfless profession, she said. “It can also be a thankless profession at times, but we nurses don’t mind that.”

The ceremony not only honored Class of 2019 graduates but also members of previous classes—those who have graduated from the university’s RN to BSN program since its launch in 2013.

At the ceremony, each graduate was presented with a pin, which Dean of The Undergraduate School Kara Van Dam said symbolizes both the caregiver’s mindset and the new knowledge and new skills obtained while pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at UMUC. A brief history of the pinning tradition is included at the close of this article.

UMUC initiated the RN to BSN program to help the State of Maryland achieve the National Academy of Science Institute of Medicine’s recommendation that 80% of nurses in the United States attain a bachelor's degree by the year 2020, explained Alan Drimmer, UMUC senior vice president and chief academic officer. The program began with 63 students. As of spring 2019, more than 1,000 students are enrolled, he added.

“With your degree, you are better able to manage patient care in an increasingly complex healthcare system,” Drimmer told graduates. “You have the knowledge to provide care that is informed by evidence-based research. And you have a path forward to advance your careers.”

Marcia Livingston, who completed her nursing studies in 2018, represented her peers as the convocation’s graduate speaker. A registered nurse since 2010, she entered the field with an Associate Degree and said she always knew she would need further studies to boost her nursing career.

“Achieving this degree is monumental. Today, I feel a sense of pride knowing that I have secured a place in the future of this noble profession.”

Graduate Speaker Marcia Livingston addresses graduates at UMUC inaugural Nursing Convocation May 15

She said her bachelor’s in nursing makes her better prepared to meet the challenges of the profession and has equipped her to save lives and drive better patient outcomes—that the UMUC study experience exposed her to the importance of technology in health care delivery, a vital component in 21st century medicine because technology has made the global health landscape much smaller.

But it was, perhaps, the community health course, which took her into the field, that had the most significant impact on her, “For the first time I was able to take an in-depth look at my own community,” Livingston said.

She added that the course taught her to be more observant and attuned to the local issues and needs that affect health and well-being. “Had I not taken this course, I never would have become aware of the need … and the role of the registered nurse in addressing health issues in the community."

Livingston challenged graduates to be inquisitive. "There is always a story behind the story. Dig deep to find the solution behind patients’ problems. We must make our mission to improve the overall health of the lives we touch and, by extension, find gratification in service to [humankind]."

For the 17th year in a row, Schroeder told graduates, nurses ranked the highest in Gallup’s 2019 poll assessing ethics and honesty. In fact, she said, except for 2001 when—in the wake of September 11—firefighters held the top rank as they well deserved, nurses have ranked highest since 1999 when the Gallup Poll first included the profession.

Why does the public continually rank nurses as the most ethical and honest? She suggested that it is most likely because of the relationship nurses have with their patients.

The Nurse-Patient relationship is founded on trust, compassion, advocacy, clinical competency, and ethical practice, Schroeder added.  “During their most vulnerable times, patients trust that nurses will be there to protect them and look out for their best interests.”

The Significance of the Nursing Pin

While the inaugural Nursing Convocation establishes a new tradition at UMUC, Van Dam told graduates that the tradition of the nursing pin has roots dating back to the 12th century and the Knights of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.

“When new monks were initiated into this order they vowed to care for the sick and injured. In that ceremony, they were given a Maltese cross—the first badge ever given to those who provided nursing care.”

A more modern version of this ceremony dates to 1855, when Queen Victoria awarded Florence Nightingale a special brooch featuring the Red Cross of St. George. Florence Nightingale shared this honor by presenting medals to her best and brightest students, Van Dam added.

By 1916, the practice of pinning was expanded to all of those who committed themselves to the welfare of others and society and the nursing pinning then became standard practice throughout the United States and England, she said.

Cover photo: Bachelor of Nursing graduate Teresa Waters receives her sash and pin at UMUC inaugural Nursing Convocation, May 15.