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Nursing traits become an integral part of you

Every May, I look forward to the recognition given to nurses and the profession of nursing in the media and health care institutions during Nurses Week, May 6 to 12. It is inspiring to note the many contributions my colleagues make in our community and beyond. It is especially exciting when I see nurses I have worked with or who have been students of mine nominated for recognition as Nurses of Distinction.

As a nurse educator, I have an additional reason to celebrate Nurses Week. This national celebration of nursing always falls just before graduation. For me, the most exciting event in the Department of Nursing's calendar is the evening graduating seniors receive their nursing pins. At the College at Brockport, this is our Nursing Recognition Ceremony. Regardless of the title of the celebration, all nursing schools set aside a special time to recognize their graduates. With family, friends and faculty proudly watching, the accomplishments of the graduates are acknowledged as they receive the pin specially designed to denote their School of Nursing. This pin will forever be a cherished reminder of the school where they completed their nursing education.

As I anticipate this year's ceremony, I know I will feel the same emotions as every year. First, I will look over the excited graduates and be overwhelmed by the realization of how many thousands of lives will be touched over the coming years by this graduating class.

Then I have a last-minute feeling of panic. Did these graduates learn all they need to succeed as safe and knowledgeable nurses? Did they develop enough strength to sustain them through the inevitable moments of loss and sadness that come their way in caring for those who are suffering or dying?

Next, I can't help wondering where their careers will take them. Will they practice locally, across the country or even around the world? What specialty will they choose? Will they go on to graduate school and become advanced practice nurses or nursing faculty? The opportunities these nursing graduates will have are endless. Regardless of where they practice, it is clear that our health care system desperately needs their enthusiasm, energy and expertise.

More than three decades ago, I was the excited new graduate being honored in a similar ceremony at Roberts Wesleyan College. I could never have imagined the joys, challenges and opportunities that I would experience in my career. I think that is why this quote printed anonymously in a nursing journal recently jumped out at me: "When I became a nurse I was filled with excitement over how I would help patients and change the world, but I had no idea how nursing would change me."

The nurses reading this quote will understand the wisdom this nurse shared. There comes a moment when you take your nursing uniform off, but you are still a nurse! Compassion, concern for others and a constant desire to use your knowledge, skill and creativity to help people doesn't end at the change of a shift. These traits become an integral part of you. It is part of the reason nurses are consistently recognized among the most trusted of professionals. It is part of why it is such an incredible honor and privilege to be a nurse.

I treasure the fact that I was able to fulfill my dream of becoming a nurse. I wish the same joy and fulfillment to my fellow nurses. Best wishes and congratulations to our nursing graduates this spring. Welcome to nursing!

Linda Snell, of Clarence, is a registered nurse, nurse practitioner and associate dean, School of Health and Human Performance at the College at Brockport.