Taking a pause to pin and pledge, then proceed

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Convocation 2011, UMass Worcester, September 15, 2011

Graduate Entry Pathway Pinning Ceremony a watershed for nursing students

By Sandra Gray,
UMass Medical School Communications



GEP Pinning

GSN Dean Paulette Seymour-Route, PhD, pins a GEP student at the pinning ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

Photo by Rob Carlin


Members of the Graduate Entry Pathway (GEP) Class of 2013 celebrated a milestone, rather than the endpoint, of their nursing studies at the seventh annual GEP Pinning on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

“For our students, the academic work does not stop here,” said GEP Director Eileen Terrill, PhD, assistant professor of nursing. “Yet as the fundamental underpinning for advanced practice, we believe that it is necessary to acknowledge and celebrate the nurse’s pinning as an exciting rite of passage, marking achievement as well as transition into the nursing profession.”

Class of 2013

Hosted by the Graduate School of Nursing, the GEP Pinning was the opening event of Convocation Week 2011 at UMass Medical School. Historically an event in which students—virtually all women—who had completed hospital-based nurse training programs became registered nurses, the pinning ceremony marked the transition from training to practice. In the contemporary GEP version, students—both men and women—not only mark their readiness to become registered nurses, they launch the next phase of their continuing preparation for advanced professional practice.

“The program asks you to take yourself to the limit to become an RN in a little over a year,” said class member Ryan Gilbert. “Receiving the pin is a tremendous honor and gives a huge sense of accomplishment.”

Beyond completion of the program’s first year of intensely accelerated study and passage of the national exam that will license them as registered nurses, the pinning ceremony marks the beginning of two more years of graduate study and clinical experience. Upon earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree at the end of the three-year program, graduates are qualified for licensure as nurse practitioners or to become nurse educators.

Launched by the GSN in 2003 to address the nursing workforce shortage in Central Massachusetts, the GEP is specifically designed for adult students who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. The Class of 2013 comprises six men and 26 women, including a musician, a fashion designer, two teachers and a prior restaurateur and personal trainer, as well as 12 recent college graduates and several individuals who have worked in other health care disciplines including nutrition, mental health and emergency response.

Rob Mayer, who gave a brief history of the pinning ceremony, is just one example of the class’s diversity. Mayer, who majored in English and came to the GSN after having worked in a variety of fields, hopes to advocate for, as well as provide preventive health care to, abused young adults and neglected elders as an adult primary care nurse practitioner. “Today’s pins are symbols of pride and excellence,” he said.

Prior to the awarding of pins and recitation of the class pledge, awards of excellence were presented to eight students. Gilbert, who is the president and founder of two non-profit humanitarian organizations, was presented with an award for community engagement, as was class speaker Anna Geueke, who has also undertaken relief work internationally as well as locally. The award for academic excellence was presented to the four students with the highest grade-point average: Cassie Kelso, Nicole Peace, Bridget Pollack and Katie Wallace. Nicole Peace also received the award for clinical excellence, along with Nicole Deschenes, and Meghan Grafton King received the Spirit of Nursing award for her exceptional peer support during clinical rotations.

“It has been an incredibly rigorous and demanding, but also incredibly transformative first year,” said Geueke, a 2008 graduate of Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in social work who plans to bring her previous experiences working with refugees overseas in Africa and locally in Boston to bear on her new career as an adult acute/critical care nurse practitioner. ”Every patient interaction and every lecture molded us, adding on a layer of knowledge, a layer of insight and a consolidation of skills that we will carry with us and continue to build on as we continue to grow into our careers.”

The formal program concluded with the class reciting the GEP pledge in unison, followed by a reception where students celebrated with family, friends and faculty. And while Geueke lauded GEP faculty in her speech, the admiration is mutual. “We are very proud of our GEP students, and we welcome them as colleagues and leaders,” said Dr. Terrill.

View highlights of the Graduate Entry Pathway Class of 2013 Pinning Ceremony in this slideshow.


The pin and the pledge

A time-honored custom of nursing programs throughout the world, the pinning ceremony is a reminder of the profession’s promise to serve others. The GEP pin was designed by a student committee from the Class of 2007. Inside the shield, the column with the entwined snake symbolizes wisdom. Above the shield, the eagle’s wings symbolize protection and the star refers to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is allowed to use that symbol as one of the original colonies. The star also stands for nobility of purpose. The laurel leaves symbolize both peace and triumph. The words “education, research, service, practice” inscribed in the banners surrounding the shield refer to the mission of the Graduate School of Nursing.

Like physicians, nurses pledge to serve their community and their profession. The GSN’s GEP pledge is adapted from the original pledge developed for Florence Nightingale, which was based on the Hippocratic Oath. The GEP Class of 2013 recited the pledge in unison after receiving their pins: I solemnly pledge myself in the presence of this assembly to practice my profession of nursing faithfully. I will provide care where care is needed and shape the environment in which care occurs so that the promise of caring may be fulfilled. I will center my practice on the welfare of all those in my care honoring the fullness of their humanity. I will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping. I will refrain from any action, and will not knowingly take any action, that will do harm. I will maintain and elevate the standards of my profession through reasoned inquiry and faithful scholarship, and by embodying the integrity expected of me by my peers and those I serve.

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