The University of Maine School of Nursing held a virtual pinning ceremony for 38 graduating students on April 25. The ceremony was streamed using Facebook Live and honored and celebrated the students who were allowed to graduate two weeks early from the UMaine nursing program.

The opening remarks were delivered by Dr. Kelley Strout, interim director of the UMaine School of Nursing, who teaches courses on aging, as well as community and population health.

“It is an honor to serve as host this evening as we celebrate the achievements of the UMaine School of Nursing baccalaureate class of 2020, in our historic COVID-19 virtual pinning ceremony,” Strout opened. “I want to take a moment to recognize the team at the School of Nursing. Over the past two months, we’ve asked our faculty and staff to transition to a completely new style of learning, working and connecting with our students… and each other.”

The pinning ceremony then acknowledged the work of members of the UMaine School of Nursing team, which has allowed the class of 2020 to gain the skills necessary to enter the workforce as nurses. The ceremony also acknowledged the support that the school has gotten from the donors who work to maintain it through grant money and other donations.

The pinning ceremony was part of the decision made by the UMaine School of Nursing to allow baccalaureate nursing students to graduate early in order to pursue their license sooner and expedite the process of entering into the workforce, as Maine’s healthcare system seeks ways to minimize the impact of COVID-19.

“The class of 2020 is a very resilient, dedicated group of graduates,” Strout said. “I’m so proud of this class. They are committed to enter the workforce and provide patient care on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

After the 38 students receive their degree, 33 of them plan to continue to practice in the healthcare field in Maine. Two students have been accepted and have committed to jobs in nurse residency programs at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Part of the decision to let students graduate early was motivated by Maine hospitals and healthcare facilities choosing to discontinue the opportunity for students to complete their clinical training. The last semester for graduating nursing students mainly focuses on collaborative work experiences, with students completing nearly 200 hours of clinical work, job-shadowing and one-on-one professional development. By the time that the COVID-19 pandemic caused healthcare facilities to change their protocol for clinical training, many of UMaine’s students had already completed more than half of the required coursework and clinical work.

Because many of the students had already put in the hard work and dedication and were aware of the time constraints that were posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, they were willing to work with faculty in order to complete an accelerated course of study.

“We are so very proud of these graduates,” UMaine and UMaine Machias President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said. “We thank them for their incredibly hard work, their bravery and dedication to the healthcare field in Maine and beyond. The highly selective School of Nursing has very high standards, with faculty providing outstanding training and preparation for students who are ready to make a difference in the world. We congratulate the graduates on this fantastic achievement and wish them all the very best as they move out into the field to help all of us during this difficult time with the pandemic.”