SMC graduates 17-member nursing class

Published 6:40 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

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DOWAGIAC — Southwestern Michigan College welcomed 17 new nurses May 1 to America’s largest health care profession with almost 4.7 million registered nurses nationwide.

The federal government projects that more than 203,000 new positions will be created each year through 2031.

The median age is 46, with more than a quarter of RNs reporting that they plan to leave nursing or retire over the next five years.

The spring class received associate degrees in nursing (ADN) in a pinning ceremony in the theater of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus. The class joins the ranks of 3,202 SMC nursing graduates.

Dr. Melissa Kennedy, dean of the School of Nursing and Health Services, introduced Assistant Professor Haley Smith, a 2016 SMC graduate from Dowagiac, to address the class on growth.

“I think you all, including your loved ones, can agree that you all have gone through a large amount of growth,” Smith said. “I’ve seen growth in knowledge and in confidence in a number of you firsthand. You’ve all changed significantly.

“After today, when I run into you in hospital settings, I will again get to appreciate the amount of progress you’ve made from this point until whenever it is I see you again.”

 “Students always say, ‘Can I ask a stupid question?’ and, in my opinion,” Smith said, “there are no stupid questions. The best nurses are always asking questions regardless of the amount of experience they have. Strive for growth in confidence and in personal knowledge.”

In  his welcome, President Dr. Joe Odenwald noted both of his grandmothers were nurses.

“Right now I’m in the process of selling the home in Louisiana and found some things from her nursing school days, 1947-50. Back in those days, you lived in the hospital. You worked eight hours a day on the floor, you studied eight hours a day and the other eight hours, you slept. It was a three-year commitment.

“I found her yearbook and her diploma. It looks pretty good for 74 years old. And I found her ID. The last 20 years she was a public-health nurse, five feet of concrete and the backbone of our family. Nursing provided us with financial stability because the guys farmed, which can be up and down. Today, she’s 97 and in an assisted living facility.”

Odenwald said her 50-year nursing career spanned 1950-2000, from trauma patients to delivering babies.

That’s why “I have so much respect for what you’ve done,” Odenwald told graduates, “and I am so proud of you. You’re going to be out in communities both near and far away. If there is any program that is our brand, it’s this one because everybody needs health care coming in or going out. Your families know it’s not easy to get through nursing school.”

Graduates include: Sarah Bodo, Paw Paw; Michaela Bogue, St. Joseph; Ciara Centamore, Bristol, Ind.; Taylor Hulett, Cassopolis; Shelby Jaynes, Niles; Stephanie Jean-Philippe, Berrien Springs; Alexis Kanyuh, Roseville, Ind.; Morgan Labis, St. Joseph; Ashley Minnick, Niles; Jenna Mullen, Buchanan; Nikola Nate, Niles; Ruth Nyambane, Berrien Springs; Victoria Pearey, South Bend; Alejandro Reyes, Goshen; Kristine Schumacher, Elkhart; Enir Seidel, St. Joseph; and Terrance Smith, Paw Paw.

Smith was presented a Lamp of Knowledge by Dr. Kennedy in recognition of the peer-selected Florence Nightingale Award embodying selflessness, compassion, thoughtfulness, team play, dependability, generosity and humility.

Faculty in attendance also included Chair Rona Goodrich, Stacey Dwyer, Yolanda Roche, Hazel Lim, Catherine Chandler, Lisa Pulling, Jessica Pethick, Jenna Rickett, Rebecca Eichler-Toth and Allison Coleman.