Nursing graduates draw strength from family bonds

Nurses spend their careers giving endless support to patients and doctors. But when nurses need support, where do they turn?

That support system shared the stage with graduates of the University of Southern Maine’s School of Nursing at the convocation ceremony on Friday, December 16. Of the 58 degrees handed out at Abromson Community Education Center in Portland, 39 were bachelor’s degrees and 19 were master’s degrees.

Dr. Brenda Petersen welcomes graduates and their guests to the December 2022 Nursing Convocation at Hannaford Hall.
Associate Dean of Nursing Brenda Petersen delivered opening and closing remarks.

“I’ve always loved caring for people,” said Jamie Beaupre as she waited for the ceremony to start. “I’ve been a CNA (certified nursing assistant) for six years and it’s been a passion for me. It’s continued even though COVID is a huge inconvenience for many, I still love caring for people.”

A master's graduate receives the traditional hood signifying completion of her degree at the December 2022 Nursing Convocation ceremony.
Master’s degree recipients are outfitted with ceremonial hoods.

Beaupre credits her mother and father for building up her perseverance to endure the pandemic and complete her studies. For that reason and many more, Beaupre called them forward when the time came to receive her pin.

Commemorative pins are given to Nursing graduates along with their bachelor’s degrees as a symbol of their entry into the profession. The degree comes from the university. But the pin comes from someone with a close personal connection to the graduate. Melissa Liang chose her mother for that honor.

“I’ve had a lot of breakdowns and it’s tough, but she supported me throughout it,” Liang said. “Listening to me vent, mostly. Talking about my struggles and then giving me advice on how to move past it was definitely really helpful.”

Liang’s college days and the need for her mom’s advice may not be over as she considers applying to medical school. Serge Niyirikamba is already on his second degree, adding a BS in Nursing to his earlier study of Biology. He plans to apply those skills in the field of mental health. Lofty goals run in the family.

A graduate and his family celebrate the completion of his degree at the December 2022 Nursing Convocation ceremony.
Bachelor’s degree recipients choose the person from whom they receive their pins.

“My father is going to be pinning me today,” said Niyirikamba. “My father is an example to me. He has his doctorate in Nursing Practice so I look up to him.”

Elizabeth Yeaton left no doubt about the love she has for her mother. As Yeaton stepped forward to be recognized, her best friend held a pin in one hand and a photograph of her mother, Jennifer, in the other.

“She had had pancreatic cancer and passed away almost four years ago and it’s because of her that I found my way to nursing,” Yeaton said.

Family bonds of all kinds were on display during the pinnings. Vivian Nguyen’s pin came from her sister, Natalie. Alyssa Spencer’s fiancé, Dalton, presented her pin. Mark Ennis tapped his best friend and brother-in-spirit, Greg, to perform his pinning duties.

Maine Medical Center President Jeffrey Sanders picked up on the familial theme in his keynote speech. About 2,000 nurses work at Maine Med. Sanders described them as a big, extended family who are happy to welcome new members into their ranks.

Maine Medical Center President Jeffrey Sanders delivers the keynote speech at the December 2022 Nursing Convocation ceremony.
Maine Medical Center President Jeffrey Sanders delivered the keynote speech.

“I want to assure you, your colleagues will have your backs,” Sanders said.

Before joining their new professional families, graduates said a last goodbye to their college family. Their student days officially ended with the conferral of degrees by University President Jacqueline Edmondson and Jeremy Qualls, Dean of the College of Science, Technology and Health.

The audience acknowledged the milestone with a roar of applause. A moment later, graduates turned around and returned the ovation to thank their loved ones for all their past support, as well as the support still to come.

Associate Dean of Nursing Brenda Petersen had the last words. She assured graduates that the relationships they formed in the course of their studies won’t end when they walk out the door.

“You will always have a home with us,” Petersen said.