There’s something special about Saint Anselm College nurses. While the qualities that make up this unique group of people are often intangible, these selected nurse pinning essays from the class of 2019 get to the heart of what it truly means to be a nurse from Saint Anselm College. For those unfamiliar with the pinning ceremony, it celebrates the seniors’ completion of the highly respected and rigorous nursing program. The pin symbolizes our nurses’ preparedness to serve as a compassionate caregiver. When this year began, none of us knew how much the world would need our nurses now more than ever before. And while this year’s pinning ceremony was unable to take place in person, our nursing students from the class of 2020 have traded their student training scrubs for professional ones, doing what they do best: caring for others.
Mollie Mannion, R.N. ’19
Boston Medical Center, Boston, Mass.
A turn of the page, a knock on the door, a choice.
When I think about my time in nursing school, I think of it as a book—and no, I am not talking about Medical-Surgical Nursing: Assessment and Management of Clinical Problems by Lewis, Bucher and Harding (2017). Although I did carry that one around campus and read it often (I highly recommend it, by the way), I’m thinking of a book that tells a story.
Often when we read storybooks, we want to skip to the end, to the part where everything comes together and, in most cases, a happy ending is achieved. There is no doubt that during nursing school there were times when we wanted to skim through the pages as quickly as possible to get to the and simply because we thought those chapters were too hard. I can’t help but think what a shame this would have been. For the true beauty of books is pages that might be a little crumpled and maybe even have some tears from laughing too hard (or crying), the characters you meet, and the varying lessons in each chapter. I am sure there may have been a few paper cuts along the way, but I am here to remind you that you should be proud because you chose to go through each chapter (both good and bad) of your personal nursing school story and make it your own.
Like all books, the story can sometimes have a slow start; however, none of you were fooled. For you were just too smart for that, knowing that the introduction is a crucial part to pay attention to, a foundation. Thus, you chose to go to our Tuesday/Thursday 8 a.m., two-and-a-half-hour lecture freshman year with Professor Welch where we learned the patient is a person first. We learned Swanson’s Theory of Caring and that knowing, doing for, enabling, maintaining belief, and being with the patient during a most difficult time in their life can have the biggest impact.
“In Fundamentals of Nursing we learned the beauty of empathy and the significance in recognizing the humanity in others.”
—Mollie Mannion, R.N. ’19
Moreover, in Fundamentals of Nursing we learned the beauty of empathy and the significance in recognizing the humanity in others. During this course, we chose to wear a brief (a big diaper) on a hot September day (all day), and to sit and spoon-feed and be fed by our lab partners so that we could put ourselves in our patient’s shoes. I laugh thinking about going to my non-nursing classes with my brief bunching out of my pants, but at the same time I smile at just how lucky I am to be a part of a program that emphasizes empathy and love.
The story continued and our lives became filled with clinical hours with new opportunities, choices, and pages to turn. We learned to recognize important lab values, perform the head-to-toe assessment, and synthesize the varying components of our patient’s story. We made a choice each time we went into the hospital, knocked on the door and said, “Hello, I am going to be your student nurse today.” Behind each door was a new character who would impact our lives forever, whether we knew it or not.
Reflecting on the Saint A’s nursing school journey, I am reminded of a quotation from Father Mathias during a senior retreat. “If you carpe diem (Latin for seize the day), you will nunc dimittis (be dismissed),” he said. Elaborating, he explained if you make the choice to seize each day, you will have those ‘aha’ moments in life where you feel so connected to the moment you are in and at peace with what you are doing in life that you are able to say “Now I can be dismissed, Lord.”
I realize I am turning the very last page of an important book in my life. I thank you all for being a part of my personal nursing storybook. You each hold a special place in my heart. I look forward to starting the next book in my series of life and feel so blessed to have my Saint A’s nursing school book engrained in my heart and my mind to always look back on.
Alexi Stathis, R.N. ’19
Pediatric Onolocgy Clincal Nurse
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center,
Pediatric Oncology, New York, N.Y.
What does it mean to be a nurse?
Professor Welch asked us that question on the first day of our first real nursing class: Introduction to Professional Nursing. A few of us attempted to answer it, suggesting it involved being caring or helping people, but what none of us knew was that only time and experience could show us what it truly means to be a nurse.
As we sit here today in our white uniforms and white caps, it feels impossible that we have made it this far. We all knew after freshmen year biochem this was not going to be an easy journey, but looking back it was well worth it.
Sophomore year, our nursing career really took off because we got our stethoscopes and learned how to take vital signs. Shortly after, we put on our scrubs for the first time, got our hands blessed, and entered into our first geriatric clinical rotation. At that point, we still couldn’t process the fact that we were allowed to interact with real people instead of simply using our mannequin “Annie,” who couldn’t be hurt by our mistakes.
After fumbling with the blood pressure cuffs and performing our 10-minute head-to-toe assessments, we quickly began to realize nursing was not just about completing tasks. We began building rapport with our patients, listening to them tell stories about when they were our age or about their grandchildren. We learned a lot about patients, but I’d say we learned more about life.
As we moved on to med surg, we started applying more critical thinking skills and started thinking more like a healthcare professional: analyzing the patient’s history with our assessments, recognizing abnormal lab values, making nursing diagnoses and coming up with interventions. But more importantly, we continued our focus on patient-centered care.
My very first med surg patient was a 52-year-old gentleman. I was receiving the report from the nurse when she informed me he had just learned he had cancer with a poor prognosis. My heart sank and I stood trying to listen to the rest of what she was saying, but my mind was caught on that important detail. For someone who talks a lot, I had no idea what I was supposed to say to him.
But I went in and I began by introducing myself. As I took his vital signs, I noticed he had a tattoo. After a brief exchange regarding the tattoo, he went on and shared many memories and life experiences with me. What was supposed to be me taking vital signs for five minutes turned into an hour-long conversation. After, I realized I witnessed firsthand this man reflect on his entire life. I saw what it was like to be at the end of your life and have regrets.
When I was leaving, he thanked me for listening and said, “You really have no idea how much it meant and how much I appreciate you talking to me.”
We all have had experiences like this. We may have heard different stories, but we’ve experienced similar overwhelming emotions. We all have had those days—when it all starts to feel a little too much. And for every difficult moment we’ve experienced, we have a hundred incredible moments that remind us why we chose nursing as a profession. It’s the experiences we have had here, at Saint Anselm College, that will shape us into the nurses we will become.
“ For every difficult moment we’ve experienced, we have a hundred incredible moments that remind us why we chose nursing as a profession.”
—Alexi Stathis, R.N. ’19
We never could have made it this far without the support from our professors, our friends, our family. We are forever grateful for everything you have done for us.
Finally, we never could have made it this far without each other. We have all grown so much throughout these four years and I am so proud to be a part of the Saint Anselm Nursing Class of 2019. And now (senior year) I know we all have the answer to the question: What does it mean to be a nurse?
That’s the trajectory that was expected of all of us sitting here. High school prepares you for college. College prepares you for the real world. And in the real world, you need to get a job.
I thought, when I first came to nursing school, that my path was as clear as this, maybe even easy. It was simple; I would go to college and then get a job as a nurse.
What I’ve since discovered is nursing is not an easy path. None of us could have estimated the number of hours spent studying, reading, researching and writing papers, doing practice NCLEX-style questions, projects, and learning to care for patients in labs and clinicals. We’ve spent an exhausting four years learning everything there is to know about the human body. All of this has been in preparation for when we walk off this campus, pass the NCLEX (fingers crossed, on the first try in 75 questions) and get a job as a nurse.
The second misconception I had when I started school was thinking that nursing would be just a job. Honestly, if nursing was just a job, no one would do it. Nursing school has been challenging, and from what I’ve seen in clinical, nursing is often draining and exhausting as well. So why are we here?
“Maybe in all the stress and hard work, you’ve found meaning, fulfillment and beauty in this work."
—Cecilia Mercadante, B.S.N., R.N. ’19
Maybe you are here because you come from a long line of nurses, and you were inspired to be like them. Maybe you had an ill family member or friend, and the nurses cared for you as much as they did for your loved one. Maybe you needed to be cared for yourself, and now you can do that for others. Or maybe, like me, you just had a feeling. And now, in all the stress and hard work, you’ve found meaning, fulfillment and beauty in this work.
Whatever the reason, one thing is clear. After four years of lectures, studying, and thousands of NCLEX practice questions, we aren’t here to get a job as a nurse. We are here to become nurses. I don’t fully understand what that means yet, and maybe I never will, but I believe becoming a nurse means we have responsibilities, both to ourselves and to those we care for.
First, it means we should act this out in all parts of our lives. To start, we need to take care of ourselves. Being kind to ourselves may be the best way we can give of ourselves to others.
Second, being a nurse means remembering this is not just a science, but an art. Looking at my peers, I see qualified, intelligent and compassionate nurses who are all ready for this work, but it is essential we remember our care goes beyond the physical. Over our time at St. A’s we have learned this well; from dancing in the halls with residents of the nursing homes, to practicing therapeutic communication with our med surg patients, to holding the hands of loved ones in the ICU, to cheering on a mother as she enters another hour of labor, to finding creative ways to reach vulnerable populations in Manchester or even Costa Rica. And I could go on. Our patients’ most important needs are often not physiological, but social, emotional, psychological or spiritual. When we begin working in a couple of months, I can imagine we will be overwhelmed with the science because there is so much to understand. In the midst of that, we have the responsibility to find moments to practice nursing as an art.
Lastly, my hope is that we never treat this work as just a job.
When we feel burned out or exhausted, or that this profession we have chosen is becoming a series of tasks to accomplish, we should take a moment to remember those answers. You chose this for a reason; you put in all this time and work for a reason. And whatever that reason is, it boils down to the same thing: Today we are pinned; we do not become qualified for a job. Today symbolizes that being a nurse is part of who we are.
Jordan Ezekiel, R.N. ’19
Elliot Hospital, Manchester, N.H.
Walt Disney once said “all of our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” For those of us sitting here in white, today celebrates a dream we had as children and chased to achieve. This chase was not easy. Sometimes it felt like a sprint. Sometimes like the last two miles of a marathon. Sometimes like the mile-run you had to do in gym class as a kid. Regardless, today those of us who are being pinned, and those who we love and have helped us through the challenges of nursing school can all celebrate as we approach the finish line together.
I remember choosing to attend Saint Anselm College because it seemed like the place where I could continue to be involved in many of the things I liked to do in high school, in addition to studying a subject I was passionate about: nursing. In one of our first nursing lectures, Professor Welch told us how throughout the years we would grow as nurses and our ideology behind why we wanted to become nurses and influence others would change as we grew. I realized I was surrounded by students who seemed to know exactly why they wanted to be nurses and what specialty they wanted to pursue. I, however, had absolutely no idea why I wanted to be a nurse. Of course, there were always the general ideas such as “I like helping people,” but I felt like it had to be so much more than that.
Our nursing instructors taught us the importance of holistic care and building patient connections. I thought it sounded wholesome, but integrating this along with all of the other things we were supposed to remember seemed overwhelming.
During one clinical day, I was caring for a woman recovering from a stroke. The woman would not speak but cried often. During morning care, I started humming and singing softly to her, and I saw her eyes change in the way that she looked at me. They were soft and gentle, and I could tell she did not want me to stop. I continued singing, this time a little louder, and later she began singing with me as best she could.
The nurses on the floor told me they had not gotten a word out of her for months, and here she was spending the afternoon sitting in her chair singing with me. I knew right then what it meant to be a holistic nurse, and I saw what light a small gesture could bring to someone. Now I knew why I wanted to be a nurse.
“ I knew right then what it meant to be a holistic nurse, and I saw what light a small gesture could bring to someone.”
—Jordan Ezekiel, R.N. ’19
Along with the high moments during nursing school have been those when we question ourselves—is this really what I want to be doing? I just got below a 70 percent, am I going to recover?
Am I going to be able to handle the responsibility of having the lives of others in my hands? Sometimes there have been moments where we wanted to cry and quit rather than submit two case studies, study for anatomy practical, write a research paper, take a patho exam, go to 16 hours of clinical, do a VSIM, 2 ATIs, and two more exams all in one week. But we didn’t quit. And we should be proud.
Aside from graduation and finals, today is one of the last days we will spend together as the Nursing Class of 2019. Whatever path we choose to pursue from here, may we always remember our home on the Hilltop and the many blessings it brought us, and our loved ones. Let us say a special thank-you today to our instructors and professors who guided us over the years and believed in our capabilities through our lowest and highest moments. Let us give our parents an extra big hug for always being on the other end of the phone when we needed to cry, for cheering us on all the way, and for being here today celebrating in our future. We could not have done it alone.
I wish you all nothing but grace, strength and happiness as we close out this chapter and begin a new one.
Valerie Pauer, R.N. ’19
Cardiovasular Surgical Unit
Catholic Medical Center, Manchester, N.H.
Today, we are gathered again in the Abbey church, just as we were two years ago for the Blessing of the Hands, a ceremony that marked the beginning of our journey to become Saint Anselm nurses.
We have grown so much as nursing students as well as individuals during our time on the Hilltop. As students, we have acquired an immense amount of knowledge through the successful completion of the highly respected and rigorous nursing program here at Saint Anselm.
While this pinning ceremony commemorates the end of our journey as Saint Anselm nursing students, it also marks the beginning of our tenure as Saint Anselm nurses—which brings up the question: What is a Saint Anselm nurse?
It is difficult to describe what sets a Saint Anselm nurse apart within the nursing profession. Countless times, when I have talked to patients, members of the community or other healthcare professionals, I have received an outpouring of compliments and praise regarding the excellence of Saint Anselm nurses. I have heard comments such as “I love Saint Anselm nurses; Saint Anselm nurses are the best; I’m so thankful to have a Saint Anselm nurse taking care of me; I love hiring and working with Saint Anselm nurses.” Yet it is often difficult for people to explain in words what makes Saint Anselm nurses so special. As a student nurse, I frequently hear people say, “There is just something about you.” This is something that I myself have pondered, and I would like to share with you, in my own words, my interpretation of the essence of a Saint Anselm nurse.
There is no doubt that Saint Anselm nurses are clinically competent, as evidenced by our rigorous curriculum and outstanding faculty who have served as extraordinary nurse role models for each one of us, both inside the classroom as well as in clinical rotations. We all owe a special thanks to our faculty who have inspired us with their passion for and dedication to the nursing profession. The countless hours of nursing lectures, studying in groups with each other, completing ATI and Evolve quizzing, working through complex case studies, receiving one-on-one help from our professors, writing papers, and answering seemingly impossible “Select All That Apply” questions have prepared us well to master knowledge needed to pass the NCLEX and become registered nurses.
We are both competent and holistic nurses, as we are able to care for others at their most vulnerable times with thoughtfulness, compassion, and humbleness. Our studies of the liberal arts have not only instilled in us a lifelong desire to pursue truth, but the liberal arts have also further cultivated the innate qualities that drew us to Saint Anselm in the first place. I consider these qualities to be strength, courage, wisdom, patience, compassion and understanding. It is these qualities that set Saint Anselm nurses apart.
Our scrubs will no longer be embellished with the SAC logo, and our multiple I.D. badges will not identify us as Saint Anselm Nursing Students, and we will no longer introduce ourselves as “Hi, my name is Valerie, and I am a Saint Anselm student nurse who will be helping to take care of you today.” As we move beyond the Hilltop, however, and go out into the world to fulfill our individual roles as registered nurses, our identity as Saint Anselm nurses will forever be demonstrated by the compassion, strength, understanding, wisdom and patience that guides the way we will care for our patients. Our unique Anselmian identity will be evident through our ability to demonstrate strength, courage and faith in the most trying times in our careers. The cultivation of these qualities is a quintessential element of the identity of a Saint Anselm nurse, and it is what makes Saint Anselm nurses so special.
“Our unique Anselmian identity will be evident through our ability to demonstrate strength, courage and faith in the most trying times in our careers."
—Valerie Pauer, R.N. '19
In closing, to the Nursing Class of 2019: Let the Saint Anselm College nursing pins we receive today serve as everlasting reminders of our duties to faithfully serve God and humbly care for our fellow men through our calling to the sacred profession of nursing.
Congratulations and best wishes to all my fellow Anselmian nurses. Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand. Thank you and God bless you all.
To all of our nurses, healthcare workers, first responders and frontline workers, and to everyone in our Saint Anselm community who has been putting the wellness and safety of others in front of their own during this unprecedented time, we thank you.
A Call of Duty
Matt Quin R.N., M.S. ’99, president and COO at Women & Infants Hospital, Providence, R.I., is not a stranger to challenging times. While he is currently guiding his hospital, which delivers 80 percent of the babies born in Rhode Island, through the worst pandemic in more than a century, Quin also was on the front lines of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 as director of the Surgical, Burn and Trauma Intensive/ Intermediate Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“The Boston Marathon bombing was a very challenging time,” says Quin. “We hadn’t experienced anything like it before in Boston—there was a lot of trauma, physical and emotional.”
Quin credits a rise in the human spirit with helping everyone through the tragic event. “Nurses and healthcare workers make such a sacrifice putting others before themselves—it is truly a call of duty,” he says. “Seeing everyone rise above these challenging moments to give the best possible care to patients is uplifting and inspiring.”
This same human spirit is helping him and his staff handle the current Covid-19 situation. “Like the marathon bombing, we’ve never experienced anything like this before, and people are coming together in ways they have never done before, rising above old and new challenges while forging new relationships and work processes,” he says. “The unified sense of community and drive to figure out our path forward is palpable—we are having to learn as we go.”
For Quin and his staff, this means adapting to situations that are changing by the hour. That includes navigating smaller obstacles such as wearing masks all day and no longer meeting in groups, to bigger hurdles of closing down surgical units, moving surgical units and surgical pods in hours instead of weeks, and determining how to navigate the complexities of social distancing and restricted visitation in the setting of significant life experiences such as the birth of a child or the passing of a loved one.
The Covid-19 situation also has caused Quin and the healthcare team to create new care models to support patients. “Many patients are coming to Women & Infants Hospital for a joyous event, the birth of a baby, but now we need to develop safe ways of getting patients out of the hospital more quickly because they are safer at home,” he says. “While there is a lot of uncertainty right now, we need to begin to work through the problems, step by step, to assure patients are getting the care they need.”
This ability to problem-solve and look at situations creatively is an attribute Quin says he learned during his time at Saint Anselm. “Resilience and creative thinking are attributes that grew and developed during my time at Saint Anselm,” he says. “The importance of thoughtful and intentional communication, especially when caring for people, was also something I took away with me.”
Upon graduating from the Hilltop with his Bachelor of Science in nursing, Quin took these skills on to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where in addition to being the director of the Surgical, Burn and Trauma Intensive/Intermediate Care, he also was director of Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care, leading the units’ clinical discipline of nursing. He also earned a master’s in nursing and healthcare from Simmons College in Boston. Joining Women & Infants Hospital in 2013 as vice president for nursing operations, Quin was then named senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer in 2015 before assuming his new role as president and COO.
Quin’s exceptional blend of patient care and clinical nursing experience is something he recognizes in every Saint Anselm College nurse. “I’ve found over time when hiring, nurses from Saint Anselm are just so well rounded and very smart—I know from experience how tough the program is,” he says. “They are so resilient and show such a nice balance between the art and science behind nursing.”