2023 2023: The sun rises on new careers for accelerated nursing program graduates

2023 2023: The sun rises on new careers for accelerated nursing program graduates
The sun rises on new careers for accelerated nursing program graduates

Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program graduates receive their nursing pins after completing the 17-month program

Class photo
The 25 members of Cohort 7 in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing program celebrate following their Pinning Ceremony.

"Ignite the mind’s spark to rise the sun in you."
 Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing

Less than 18 months ago, they were social workers, psychologists, and working in the health and legal fields. Last Thursday evening, a new chapter of their careers opened for 25 graduates of the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, as they celebrated the completion of their academic and clinical requirements and received their nursing pins from UMass Dartmouth's College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

"Tonight is special as we celebrate the accomplishment of these graduates and the achievement they earned. I speak for your faculty as I say, congratulations on a job well done," said Dr. Lisa Dumont, clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the ABSN program. "I'm so proud of you."

The ABSN graduates in Cohort 7 already hold undergraduate degrees, and many have degrees in or worked in health-related fields. This full-time "second degree" accelerated hybrid program can be completed in 17 months and prepares students for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) as well as safe nursing practice. The ABSN program integrates asynchronous online learning, on-campus laboratory and simulation experiences, and in-person clinical experiences within the SouthCoast area.

Devan West and her daughter, Cora
Devan West was pinned by her four-year-old daughter, Cora.

Students reflect on their accomplishments

"We look forward to the nurses that come from this program," said guest speaker Ana Poucochinho, director of clinical operations- primary care at SouthCoast Physicians Group, who served as guest speaker. "We know they are well trained, prepared, and competent."

Before the ceremony, her daughter, Ana Martins, a member of Cohort 7, said, "I’m taking in all the memories of the last 17 months with 24 of these future nurses." Martins, who worked in the legal field, said she decided to become a nurse when she attended a COVID-19 vaccination clinic managed by her mother. "I saw all these nurses coming together to give over 100,000 COVID shots in the SouthCoast community and I was inspired."

Student speaker Aaron Ferrante was also taking in the group's accomplishments and was looking forward to celebrating with his classmates. "It's the closing of one chapter and the opening of another." A chemistry major in college, Ferrante worked as an EMT and medical scribe before deciding to pursue nursing. He will work as an emergency room nurse at Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI.

Guest spaker Ana Poucochinho
Guest speaker Ana Pouccochinho, director of clinical operations-primary care, at SouthCoast Physicians Group, spoke about her own nursing journey and offered advice to the new nurses.

A night of celebration and gratitude

This year's event was held in the Main Auditorium to accommodate the many family members and friends who came to support their graduates as they completed their nursing education. Each student was pinned by a family member or significant other chosen by the graduate.

College of Nursing & Health Sciences Dean Kimberly Christopher, along with many of the evening’s speakers, expressed gratitude to families and friends for supporting students on their journey and thanked the college’s faculty and staff for encouraging and helping them along the way.

Dean Christopher also provided the history of the Pinning Ceremony that dates back to the Maltese Cross Pin adopted by Crusaders as a symbol of service to Christianity and which now marks the transition from nursing student to professional nurse. "This is also a welcoming ceremony. Faculty who are professional nurses welcome the newly graduating professional nurses. The pin is also a symbol of service that involves many professional rights as well as responsibilities. The pin is a symbol of your accomplishments, of completing your academic requirements. The pin is also a bond and connection to other UMass Dartmouth graduates," she explained.

Many pathways—and challenges—are found in the nursing profession

Guest speaker Poucochinho recalled her journey from Mozambique to her parents' immigration to their native Portugal and then to the United States, where they felt their family would find the most opportunity. She worked in the restaurant industry for years, and although she moved up to supervisory and management positions, she felt unfulfilled.

At her mother's urging, Poucochinho went to a local technical school and began a nursing program. Ten months later, she graduated with a practical nursing certificate and then enrolled in the LPN to RN nursing program at Cape Cod Community College. Later in her career, she earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration.

She also began to climb the career ladder, as vice president of admissions at Vibra Healthcare, director of financial clearance at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, heading a community health center in Providence, and her current position as director of clinical operations for SouthCoast Physicians Group, supporting 16 primary care sites.

She spoke to the future nurses about burnout, how to recognize it, and what to do when feeling high levels of occupational stress. As they embark on their own nursing journeys, she told the 25 graduates, including her daughter, Ana, to, "Be eager. Be humble. Be open. Be caring. Be empathetic. Be genuine. Be happy. Advocate for your patient. Advocate for yourself. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. Be aware of yourself, making sure you are the best version of you."

Student speaker Aaron Ferrante
Student speaker Aaron Ferrante congratulates his classmates on completing the 17-month accelerated nursing degree program and spoke about how their support of each other enabled them to succeed.

Student speakers recall their fun and serious moments together

Ferrante spoke of the class’s support for each other. "Our ability to work as a team has enabled us to succeed in this program. We have shared study materials and ideas for how to approach subjects covered in lecture. Our collaboration has enabled us to digest and solidify the material we have learned in class. We have helped each other solve problems during our clinical rotations so that we can provide the best patient care possible.

"We have been there for each other in times of joy—to celebrate engagements and marriages, and to welcome a new baby into the world. We have also been there to support each other in times of sorrow when one or another of us has mourned the loss of a precious loved one or friend. Being present with each other during these highs and lows of life has brought us joy in our shared humanity."

He also spoke of their responsibility for patients whose lives depend on them. "Everything we have learned and will continue to learn is necessary to provide excellent care for our patients. Drawing on our knowledge and experiences, we can also help our patients learn how to care for themselves. As nurses, we have been given the opportunity to help people during their toughest moments in life. Despite the challenges, the reward of knowing we have made somebody's life better is so precious," Ferrante said.

"As the sun rises on our nursing careers with this Pinning Ceremony, let us commit to pursuing a lifetime of learning, caring, and collaboration. Tomorrow is a new day, with new opportunities on the horizon. Each new day offers a chance for us to change the world; that thrilling possibility ignites the spark that makes the sun rise within each of us."

Deandra Galvin spoke of the camaraderie and fun her classmates experienced, along with their hard work. and thanked Dumont for her support. "Since Day One, you have led this group with honesty, compassion and. most importantly, with kindness. You have taught us to not only advocate for our future patients, but also to advocate for ourselves and have stood behind us when we have acted on that teaching. You are a tremendous asset to this university and any student that has the opportunity to be taught and led by you will be a better nurse because of it."

As she recalled the first day of nursing school when the students had to list three reasons why they wanted to become nurses, Galvin said, "For a few people in this group, it has been the passing of immediate family members that has brought them to this point in their lives. They have watched the meticulous care and kindness shown to their family members through the hands of nurses."

Galvin gave a shout-out to Laura Clay, whose husband passed away at a very young age from a heart condition, leaving her with two toddlers to care for. In a poignant moment during the ceremony, Clay was pinned by her mother-in-law in honor of her late husband.

Nursing board exam and new careers await

Congratulations to the members of ABSN Cohort 7:  Kathy Aadland, Tiffany Abbondanza, Kelly Booth, David Buck, Joanna Caldwell, Laura Clay, Iolani DeRis, Aaron Ferrante, Caitlyn Fonseca, DeArndra Galvin, Kalli Guillemette, Kylee Hurley, Stormy Iacaponi, Hannah Kaplinger, Kamryn Lanzoni, Katelyn Leclerc, Ana Martins, Samantha Murphy, Simone Palacio, Taylor Prescott, Kayla Soucie, Amanda Towne, Lexie Viveiros, Allison Walker, and Devan West.

The next step for this group is to take and pass their nursing board exam (NCLEX) before beginning their new careers. ABSN Cohort 7 is eligible to participate in the 2024 UMass Dartmouth Commencement Ceremony.