For one group of history-making Longwood University graduates it’s not so much about mortarboards and tassels—it’s all about the pin.

Longwood’s first class of 25 nursing graduates will participate in a traditional pinning ceremony on Friday, May 10, the day before regular commencement exercises Saturday morning. A tradition among nursing programs, the ceremony symbolically welcomes graduates into the profession.

Longwood seniors helped design the first-ever Longwood Nursing pin, which can be worn throughout a nurse’s professional career. The event includes a candlelight recitation of the Florence Nightingale pledge by all nurses in attendance and special reflections by all the graduates.

"The pinning ceremony celebrates entry into the nursing profession," said Dr. Melody Eaton, chair of the nursing department. "Each nursing program has a unique pin that is worn as a symbol of pride by nursing graduates. 

"This is a major accomplishment for both Longwood and these nursing students," said Eaton. "The program has experienced incredible growth in the past four years and we have prepared some wonderfully compassionate and intelligent people to enter the field of nursing."

Of the 25 graduates, 13 already have jobs lined up at 11 different hospitals around the region. They plan to work in a variety of clinical settings, including trauma centers, operating and emergency rooms and birthing centers. The graduates will earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Exam to practice professionally as registered nurses.

"There is a monumental need for highly trained nurses with baccalaureate degrees in the professional world," said Cindy Crews, director of the clinical learning simulation center. "As the only four-year state institution in Southside Virginia, we have a unique role in preparing nurses for hospitals around the region. As the program grows, we are poised to make a real impact on our community and beyond."

The graduates include several Farmville-area natives, including class vice president Stacy Bolt, who has accepted a job at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville after graduation. "Looking back on the past four years as a member of Longwood’s inaugural class, I am well-prepared to enter a clinical setting," said Bolt. "I am thrilled to be a graduate of this program, where I have been able to care for those in my own community."

"Even though being a part of Longwood’s first nursing class required staying an additional year, I would choose to do it again," said Amber Hare of Victoria, who will work at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital. "There are many great nursing programs out there, but none of them come with as fantastic, compassionate and knowledgeable a faculty."

Several of the nursing program graduates hail from Richmond, and many will return there to pursue work. Members of the class have accepted jobs at hospitals around the Richmond area, including Henrico Doctors Hospital, Johnston-Willis, Memorial Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Francis Hospital. "Being the first class of nurses from Longwood is a source of prestige, honor and pride," said Tiffany Bailey of Petersburg, president of the class. "I’m proud to be a Lancer who will now be able to care for patients in healthcare settings and give back to my community."

"I am part of a small group that is paving the way for many strong, skilled nurses to come," said Brittany Hess of Midlothian, who will work at the University of Virginia Medical Center. "Not many other nurses can say they pioneered such an accomplishment."

The class includes 24 women and one male graduate. "I am very excited and proud to say that we helped lay the foundation for nursing classes to come," said Marc Bein of Burkeville, who has a perioperative internship at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital, which will lead to a full-time position.

The nursing program was established in 2009 and supported by a major donation from Farmville physician Edward I. Gordon, who established a clinical simulation learning center on Longwood’s campus. The 10,000-square-foot clinical simulation center was completed in May 2012 and includes two clinical skills labs, three patient simulator labs, health assessment lab, a mother-infant simulation lab, conference/debriefing rooms, patient examination rooms, and a home care learning center.

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