2020 Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing cohort celebrates completing program amid coronavirus upheaval

Nursing education that started with fundamentals training in the nursing simulation laboratory had whooshed by, Marah Koprowski said. It was so fast that although she’d spent hours with the lab’s mannequins, brushing their synthetic hair and checking their every chronic symptom, she couldn’t remember their names. Her Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing classmates couldn’t, either.

But during a Dec. 17 pinning ceremony, Koprowski said names will be top of mind, and easily recalled, when she and nine other cohort members start serving real people.

“We’re going to have thousands of patients over our careers, but to them, there might be only one of us,” she said. “And every time that we have a patient encounter might be that one time that matters to them.”

“I’m really excited to see what you all are going to do, because you’re going to do great things as nurses and you’re going to do great things for humankind.” Norwich University President Dr. Mark Anarumo

The ceremony honored students in the university’s second Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing cohort — Stephanie Dixon, Caroline Ells, Sonya Fuller, Robert Griffin, Kaleb Kilbury, Marah Koprowski, Karley McLean, Catherine Pitts, Ami Randall and Lydia Ryan.

Norwich created the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to let students with previous degrees earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in five semesters instead of the traditional four years. Norwich’s first Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing cohort was pinned Dec. 19, 2019.

Koprowski, who won the Academic Achievement Award for scoring the cohort’s highest cumulative grade-point average, joined Fuller, Griffin, Randall and Ryan as inductees to the Omega Mu at-large chapter of Sigma Theta Tau, an international nursing honor society. The Omega Mu chapter includes students from Norwich University and Vermont Technical College; Sigma Theta Tau has about 135,000 members globally.

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Marah Koprowski, who addressed her fellow Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing students during last month’s online pinning ceremony, shows off her white coat and pin. (Photo courtesy Marah Koprowsky.)

Dixon won the Nightingale Award, given to the graduate who exhibited the most personal and professional growth during the program.

The pinning program included a welcome from Nursing Director Paulette Thabault, greetings from Provost Sandra Affenito, President Dr. Mark Anarumo and College of Professional Schools Dean Aron Temkin. Kate Healy, an associate professor of nursing, presented the awards.

Thabault said nursing pinning ceremonies date back to the 1860s, when Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), a British nurse and social reformer, received the Red Cross of St. George for her patient care during the Crimean War in the 1850s.

Nightingale, who transformed nursing by setting hospital sanitation standards, establishing a laundry to get patients clean linens and creating an “invalid’s kitchen” to feed patients with special dietary needs, also believed in recognizing jobs well done, Thabault said. Nightingale presented medals to the hardest-working graduates of the nurse training school that she established along with St. Thomas’ Hospital in London in 1860.

Nursing pinnings had become tradition in the United States by 1916, Thabault said, coming to symbolize proof of the nurse’s education. The pins are awarded in special ceremonies and designed with images and colors meaningful to graduates.

Respected and revered

Anarumo said he has special respect for nurses and nursing, the chosen profession for his grandmothers and mother, two nieces and nephew. A shelf in the annex of Woodbury Hall, Anarumo’s on-campus home, displays the original pin and cap and lamp lit to first honor Norwich’s nursing program.

“I’m really excited to see what you all are going to do,” he said, “because you’re going to do great things as nurses and you’re going to do great things for humankind.”

Affenito, who has a doctorate in nutritional science and is the sister of a critical care charge nurse, said the graduates are filling a critical need amid a national nursing shortage and the global coronavirus pandemic. She told the graduates they’ll draw on Norwich-honed skills — critical thinking, interdisciplinary collaboration, technical literacy, cultural agility — as their careers advance.

Provost Sandra Affenito told the Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing graduates that they’ll draw on Norwich-honed skills as their careers advance.

The path won’t be easy, Affenito said, but will be rewarding.

“As health care delivery systems become more complex,” she said, “you are not only well prepared to execute the holistic art and science of nursing care, but to lead through this change as advocates for optimum care.”

Koprowski reminded her classmates to acknowledge themselves as they treat their patients, managing biases and setting aside judgments to deliver their best performance. She nodded to her classmate, Ells, who likened recent months to “driving the struggle bus” through quarantine, COVID-19 and an unexpected onslaught of online learning and simulations.

“My friends, we have performed and are ready for tasks that embrace risk and consequence,” Koprowski said, inviting her classmates to high-five themselves since she couldn’t hug them. “We’ll all go on our own specialties in different states and embrace our careers in different ways. But I don’t think we’ll soon forget 2020 and Vermont, when a pandemic took over the world.”


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