Norton Sound Nursing Program graduates two nurses
“I’ll be back in five minutes,” said Mindy McIntosh, Norton Sound Health Corporation Nursing Instructor, as she raced out the door with her jacket and car keys.
It was an unscheduled intermission during the University of Alaska Anchorage Nurse Pinning ceremony that epitomized the advantages of living in a small town, much like the reason for the ceremony itself. About two dozen people gathered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Northwest Campus on Thursday, December 15 to celebrate the UAA Nursing Program graduates Katie Ellanna and Darcee Perkins.
McIntosh started things off by introducing Ellanna and Perkins and describing the rigorous training they experienced for the past two years. They were required to read hundreds of pages, memorize skills, travel out of Nome for clinicals, and experience in-person some of the duties NSHC nurses encounter on a daily basis.
Both women faced challenges as non-traditional students with families of their own, but overcame the struggles with support from every direction.
As regional residents part of the nursing program, their education was paid for entirely through Norton Sound Economic Development Corporation, including stipends for lodging expenses. NSHC afforded them hands-on experience in a real hospital setting, which isn’t the case for many nursing students. The Bering Strait Health Consortium – a group made up of several local organizations that wish to see regional residents excel – encouraged them and paved the path ahead for their education.
Both women spoke of their gratitude for support during the ceremony, including the patience of their family members, encouragement of coworkers, McIntosh’s mentorship and each other.
As the ceremony drew near the pinning portion, McIntosh realized she had left Ellanna’s pin back at her house. She called a brief intermission, so she could run home to grab it and returned within the promised five minutes. The short pause allowed families to loosen up and grab a quick snack.
Karen Walls, NSHC Chief of Nursing, spoke next, with a glimpse at a few of the things the new nurses will experience in the coming years, including long days, non-existent weekends and sore feet. But, she said, their thankful families, smiling faces, and the fellowship of their work families will make their careers worth it. She promised that NSHC will work with them to develop their skills, provide a safe space to ask questions and push them beyond their limitations.
Walls’ remarks echoed McIntosh’s.
“They will struggle along the way and have emotional breakdowns, like all good nurses do,” McIntosh said. “But they will find all the joys that are unique to nursing: holding people’s hands in a moment of need; crying with family members at the loss of a loved one; laughing and rejoicing with the birth of a newborn. Nursing is a very demanding career, but very rewarding.”
Perkins and Ellanna were pinned in honor of earning their Associate’s Degree in Nursing and are now looking forward to taking their NCLEX in the coming months. In the meantime, they will work for NSHC as graduate nurses.