Colorado Mountain College nurses carry on pinning tradition
Ryan Summerlin May 6, 2013
As often as the words “success” and “achievement” came up during the Colorado Mountain College nursing program’s pinning ceremony Friday, the word “support” was spoken just as much.
The graduating nursing students’ friends and family members crowded into CMC’s Eileen and Paul Finkel Auditorium in Breckenridge for the event. In addition to presenting the graduates with a symbolic pin and recognizing their accomplishment, the event let those graduating thank the people in their lives who helped to make it all possible.
“The pinning ceremony is very special and personal for the students and their families,” said Betty Damask-Bembenek.
Joining the brother- and sisterhood
The practice of presenting new nurses with a pin isn’t a recent one. In fact, according to Damask-Bembenek, it can be traced back hundreds of years. During the Crusades, for example, monks tending to wounded knights often were presented with the Maltese cross.
Fast forward to the time of Florence Nightingale, the Briton who is considered the mother of modern nursing. She began presenting pins to nurses entering the profession during the 1860s. Pinning first occurred in the United States in 1880 in New York; it is now practiced across the nation.
“It’s really to celebrate the student’s journey of their health-care education,” Damask-Bembenek said.
It also serves as a sort of badge of honor among nurses.
“Most of us … know how rigorous it was and how much time and energy we put into learning to become nurses,” she said. “When we see a pin, we know, that’s our camaraderie, our symbol that we’re together on this, that community of completing a very rigorous, physically demanding nursing program. It’s a recognition of our history and heritage in nursing.”
Pin designs vary from program to program, each with its own unique symbols. The CMC pin is black and gold and recalls the CMC logo with an eagle stretching its wings over mountain outlines.
Damask-Bembenek said she remembers her own pinning ceremony well, and while she has attended many ceremonies over the years, it never gets old.
“Each one is unique and special for that graduating class and it makes me fall in love all over again with nursing,” she said.
Achievements and support
Faculty members addressed the students, welcoming them into the profession and congratulating them on their achievements.
“I love nursing,” said associate nursing professor Margaret Gilmon. She said that although she had many titles behind her name, “the most meaningful is RN.”
Student speaker Moya Callahan’s overview of the past two years was filled with humorous stories, inside jokes and tales of obstacles faced and overcome.
“Nursing school changes a person,” she said.
This year’s academic achievement award was presented to Lisa Peterson. Olivia Lance was awarded the clinical performance award, and Callahan took away the Nightingale Spirit of Nursing award.
In her speech Callahan also mentioned the audience members, the friends and family members who supported the students through the two years of their studies.
“We did not get to this moment alone,” she said. “Thank you for standing beside us.”
When the moment came for the pinning, each graduate stood on stage with the special people in his or her life — parents, siblings, significant others, children, friends — and smiled as the ribbons holding the pins were slipped over their heads.
“They’re the ones that deal with the worst parts of us,” said Lance after the ceremony, of the people at home who supported her and her classmates. “This is another way for them to celebrate, that they were there to support us and to be recognized.”
Although the schoolwide CMC graduation was taking place later that day, many of the nursing students felt they had already joined their nursing peers after the pinning ceremony.
“I think the most significant part is the fact that we’re being welcomed into a profession, not just joining a profession,” said Amber Prim, one of the 13 graduating students.
While their professors are proud to welcome them into the ranks, they will also miss spending time with the students they’ve worked with for the past two years.
“Every class is so special and unique, and this class is just as special,” Gilmon said. “They’ve worked hard and you’ve become attached to the students when they’ve been in your program for two years. Each class is unique and special in its own right.”