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Ketchikan nursing students graduate
Left to right, Trina Anderson, Christi Duckworth, Stephanie Hanis, Mary Keele, Sarah Martin, Molly Oien, Jacqueline Peterson and Sarah Thompson stand in front of their friends and family during a graduation ceremony held at the North Tongass Community Center on Saturday. Staff photo by Alaina Bartel

Daily News Staff Writer

For the first time, the Ketchikan cohort of the University of Alaska Anchorage nursing program studying at the University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus were able to graduate in the First City as soon as they finished their two-year associate’s of applied science degree to become general nurses.

They will then take an licensure exam to become registered nurses.

According to Joe Lefleur, assistant professor of nursing, the students would have to wait for the UAS graduation to be held in the spring or head to Anchorage to participate in a graduation ceremony, as the Ketchikan campus only had a pinning ceremony in the past.

Eight nursing students graduated this past Saturday surrounded by their friends and family at the North Tongass Community Center. Those students include Trina Anderson, Christi Duckworth, Stephanie Hanis, Molly Oien, Jacqueline Peterson and Sarah Thompson, and both Mary Keele and Sarah Martin graduated as Alpha Delta Nu Nursing Honor Graduates.

“It’s been a very long two years for these eight graduates,” Lefleur began his opening speech. “Over the past two years, I’ve heard a lot of mumbling, cussing, praying — to go along with the program.”

On the note of praying, Lefluer welcomed Margie Adams, the chaplain at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, to give an opening blessing of the ceremony.

“Today, graduates, you are on the threshold of an ending and a beginning,” Adams said. “These are holy moments for sacred work, and we rejoice with you in your commitment and accomplishments. It’s important for you to know that you have not only learned a skill and book knowledge, you have also shared in the spiritual side of caring for others.”

Gail Klein, the UAS Ketchikan nursing advisor, and Priscilla Schulte, UAS Ketchikan director, also took the time to address the students. Schulte said often times, she thinks some people do not understand what is available in Ketchikan. She said it’s a small campus, but it “really is a gem.”

“I’m inspired by each of you every day,” Klein said, “seeing your consistent drive to reach this goal. Just to get in the program is difficult enough, and for some of you, it took a cohort or two because of those life circumstances, because what has come your way.”

Also on the slated list of speakers was Shannon Updike, RN, and vice president of patient care services at PeaceHealth Ketchikan. Updike began by extending her congratulations to each of the graduates, adding there are new and endless options and opportunities before them.

Martin, an honor graduate, also spoke at the event. She said the crowd of family members and friends are likely just as happy as the nursing students are to be done with the past two years.

“Together we survived our first exam, where questions had four correct answers and we were challenged with finding out what was the most correct,” Martin said. “Since day one, we have genuinely supported each other.

“Whether it was by covering up when one was running late to a much needed coffee break, or volunteering to lead an impromptu but mandatory meditation,” Martin continued as the graduates laughed, “making others breakfast before a clinical at 6:30 in the morning, or driving to Starbucks as a group for that special barbeque chicken sandwich as one's preferred breakfast.”

Martin finished by saying it’s clear that they learned to take care of their patients by first learning how to care for one another.

After the graduates were presented their degrees, turned their tassels and received a pin, the registered nurses in the crowd were invited to say the Florence Nightingale Nursing Pledge along with the new graduates.

“With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician, in his work,” the last line of the pledge reads, “and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”