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Pins a point of pride: Nursing grads receive insignias at inaugural event

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When nursing graduate Mallory Landry received her diploma during Commencement ceremonies Friday, a circular pin already adorned her red graduation gown.

Landry and other graduates from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions received the pins Thursday during a ceremony filled with symbolism and sentiment.

In years past, nursing graduates received their pins at Commencement. Thursday’s ceremony was the first time the college held a separate pinning ceremony.

Prior to the event, graduates, faculty and administrators – all bedecked in full academic regalia – mingled outside the Student Union’s Atchafalaya Ballroom. The prelude seemed like a dress rehearsal for Friday's Commencement, during which nearly 300 undergraduates received diplomas. 

But the smaller, more-intimate pinning ceremony carried its own special meaning as an initiation into the nursing profession. The round pin, which contains two red and white spheres encircling a golden UL Lafayette seal, provides a symbolic link to the University, said Dr. Lisa Broussard, head of the college’s Department of Nursing.

“It holds a lot of status and prestige. When you go to work, wear your pin,” Broussard told the graduating seniors. “There are a lot of people who are out there who look at that pin and know what it means.”

The nursing college has gained a reputation for the well-trained, and eminently employable, professionals it produces. As Broussard introduced the seniors Thursday night, she announced their post-graduation plans.

Nearly all had secured nursing jobs in Louisiana, Texas and other states.

Landry, a native of New Iberia, La., who was also the college’s Outstanding Graduate, starts work next month as an oncology nurse at Lafayette General Medical Center.

During clinical rotations, in which she and other students worked at area hospitals, Landry shadowed alumni who displayed their UL Lafayette nursing pins on their uniforms and identification badges. She plans to do the same.

“It's unbelievable for me to have this pin. I know whenever I am a nurse, I will be able to wear this pin proudly and that the nursing students who follow me will look at me the same way.”

The pins place their recipients into a long historical lineage of care. The idea of a badge to identify nurses dates to the 19th century when Queen Victoria of Great Britain presented Florence Nightingale with a bejeweled broach to honor the treatment the nurse provided soldiers during the Crimean War.

More than 750,000 soldiers and civilians died during the two-year religious conflict.

Far more would have perished had it not been for the training Nightingale provided other nurses and for her groundbreaking work in sanitation and hygiene at a time when disease was killing more soldiers than battlefield wounds.

As Nightingale navigated field hospitals during the Crimean conflict, she carried a small lantern. Soldiers and the British press dubbed her the “Lady with the Lamp.”

Today, the lamp is the official symbol of the nursing profession.

Nightingale, who historians consider the founder of the nursing profession, loomed large over Thursday’s ceremony.

After Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, the college’s dean, pinned the emblem on each senior’s gown, the soon-to-be graduates received glazed ceramic lamps of knowledge bearing the college’s insignia.

The newest nursing graduates face one more critical test before they officially begin their new profession. 

Most will take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses in the coming months. Over the past 35 years, graduates of the College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions have amassed a 95-percent first-time pass rate on the test.

It’s one of the highest pass rates in the country, Oberleitner said.

“Our December class has a 100-percent pass rate, so we are hoping this class has the same record.

“It’s incumbent upon us to make sure we educate our graduates to the highest level that we can, so they can transition very easily into practice,” Oberleitner continued. “The pins they received tonight make them easily recognizable as a UL Lafayette graduate, and that sets them apart. And we hear that over and over and over again.”

Photo caption: Grant Gerami receives his nursing pin from Dr. Melinda Oberleitner, dean of UL Lafayette’s College of Nursing and Allied Health Professions. He was among graduating seniors honored Thursday during the pinning ceremony, the first in the college’s history. (Photo credit: Doug Dugas / University of Louisiana at Lafayette)