By Felley Lawson
OBU News Bureau
ARKADELPHIA — The first students to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Ouachita Baptist University were honored Saturday, May 14, during a pinning ceremony in McBeth Recital Hall immediately following the university’s Commencement exercises.
Within the nursing community, the pinning ceremony is a centuries-old tradition that recognizes students for their hard work academically and clinically by awarding them a pin unique to their nursing school.
Led by Dr. Brenda Trigg, associate professor of nursing and director of nursing at Ouachita, the program celebrated 17 graduates of Ouachita’s distinctive RN-to-BSN dual enrollment completion program in partnership with Baptist Health College Little Rock. Every student in the cohort was employed before graduation; they all achieved a 100% pass rate on their first attempt of the NCLEX, the exam they are required to pass in order to become licensed nurses.
After an invocation by Dr. Ben Sells, Ouachita president, Trigg welcomed the crowd with some remarks about the students’ preparation and performance.
“These are the students who learned virtually, via Zoom” due to COVID-19 restrictions, Trigg said. “They have shown what it is to have grit and to endure. They are excellent nurses.”
“They learned how to take care of patients on site,” she added. “They did not have the privilege of having nursing laboratories to work in and learn skills; they had to learn those on their own with faculty oversight, and they did a great job.”
In addition to Trigg, Ouachita’s nursing faculty includes Dr. Becky Parnell, associate professor of nursing; Dr. Carol McKeever, assistant professor of nursing; and Megan Foshee, assistant professor of nursing and simulation lab coordinator.
Dr. Tim Knight, dean of Ouachita’s Patterson School of Natural Sciences, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address.
“The first serious conversations about a nursing program at Ouachita occurred more than 10 years ago,” Knight recalled. “What we’re experiencing today was only a dream. There were hours and hours of conversations, paperwork, more conversations, setback, breakthroughs and, finally, we are at the point of celebrating here today.”
He added, “I believe every degree at Ouachita fits our mission. When I read ‘lives of meaningful work’ and ‘reasoned engagement with the world’ in our mission statement, I think of nurses. When I read the word ‘service,’ I know you have a special place of service in God’s kingdom. Nursing is a calling. Your kind words, pleasant expressions, competent action and work ethic will make a real difference in people’s lives, and the lives of their families, at a time that is most likely difficult for them.”
An update on construction of Ouachita’s nearly 6,600 square foot Nursing Education Center was given by Dr. Keldon Henley, vice president for institutional advancement and chief of staff at Ouachita. Fitted with more than $1 million worth of simulation technology and medical equipment, the center will house a 6-bed clinical skills lab with teaching space for 16 students; community health, pediatric, acute care, emergency medicine and obstetric patient simulation rooms; a 40-seat classroom; a conference room for debriefing after simulations; a student lounge; and faculty offices. It is expected to be completed before the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester.
“Many of us have watched with admiration and thankfulness as Dr. Brenda Trigg, Dr. Tim Knight, Dr. Stan Poole, President Ben Sells and others have done the hard work of establishing nursing degree programs at Ouachita,” Henley said. “And we admire these graduates here today for their confidence in Ouachita Baptist University, in taking the risk and becoming the first.
“Our nursing graduates will take their places in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare settings,” he added, “helping to meet our nation’s critical shortage of nursing professionals, using their training to share the love of Christ and the message of the Gospel with sick and hurting individuals who may have never before heard the name of Jesus.”
Pins were presented by Trigg, and McKeever led graduates in reciting the Nightingale Pledge—a version of the Hippocratic Oath tailored for nurses and named for Florence Nightingale. Trigg, McKeever and Parnell prayed over students individually and blessed their hands, acknowledging the spiritual component of their work as nurses.
“Never lose the certainty that you were called to this profession,” Knight said. “Congratulations to the first nursing graduates in Ouachita history. I will always view you as the foundation of the program, one we can build on for decades to come. I along with the entire Ouachita family am very proud of you.”
Benton: Suzette Handwork, Hannah Cooper Pinkerton
Bismarck: Kassidy Falco
Brookland: Bethany Colbert
Camden: Drew Crutchfield
Fayetteville: Lindsey Stroope
Little Rock: Whitleigh Montgomery, Zoar Moreno, Avery Spradlin, Brianna Swinton
Magnet Cove: Ruth Petersen
McKinney: Emma Schaeffer
Mexico City, Mexico—Jacob Moreno Robles
North Little Rock: Cailey Maples
Prescott: Kiyair Webb
Quitman: Hannah Rue Ragsdale
Texarkana: Reid Jenkins