The Graduate School of Nursing’s annual Graduate Entry Pathway Pinning Ceremony kicked off Convocation Week at UMass Medical School on Sept. 11 when 30 doctoral students received pins symbolizing their entry into the nursing profession.
“The pin you receive is a badge of honor,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “We are proud that you will wear a pin throughout your nursing career with the name of our school on it.”
The GSN established the GEP program in 2003 to address the nursing shortage in Central Massachusetts, offering accelerated training for students who have bachelor’s degrees in fields other than nursing. The annual ceremony marks the students' completion of educational credentials necessary for qualification as registered nurses and the beginning of continued study toward Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees that will qualify them to become nurse practitioners, executives, scientists and educators.
The program attracts adults with varied work experiences as well as recent college graduates. Career changer Andrew Ahearn, a GEP student, will transfer his customer service skills to patient care.
“I like the interactions, knowing people by name, even connecting with families through generations,” said Ahearn, of Worcester, a former HVAC technician who graduated from Worcester State in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in business management. “I can form those kinds of relationships with my patients as a family nurse practitioner. I’m very pleased with my decision.”
He said he learned about the GEP Program through his siblings who work in health care, one a registered nurse who supervised a student from the program and another who completed part of his pharmacist residency at UMMS.
With master’s degrees in public health and global conflict transformation and peace studies, GEP student Hannah Simon-Girard has worked around the world in medically underserved and resource-poor settings with survivors of adverse life events and traumatic violence including war and genocide.
“What brought me to the GEP program was the desire to bring my public health work to the next level with clinical training,” said Simon-Girard, who grew up in Adams, Mass. “I find you have an even greater place at the table and a greater voice within population health as a clinician.”
She plans to also earn certification in behavioral and mental health and continue working in an underserved community—perhaps in her native northwestern Massachusetts, a rural area with a dearth of health care providers.
Six students earned honors for exceptional achievement during their first year of nursing studies. Brianna Leonard received the Award for Academic Excellence; Rebecca LaMay and Stephanie DiTommaso both received the Award for Clinical Excellence; Adam Bliss was the recipient of the Spirit of Nursing Award; and Heather Patrick and Hannah Simon-Girard each accepted a Community Engagement Award.
“Today is a special day because it is the day that we are pinned as registered nurses,” said class speaker Angelina Coco. “We will no longer introduce ourselves as the student nurse. Our hard work has finally paid off.”
The formal program concluded with the class reciting the Graduate Entry Pathway pledge in unison, followed by a celebration with family, friends and faculty.
The Graduate Entry Pathway Class of 2020