Nursing is a career that is built upon rich core values, values that have not diminished over time, because of the character of the individuals who have committed themselves to the calling.
That was the message Cheryl Cioffi, DNP ’11, MS ’00, BSN ’99, RN, ANP-BC, NEA-BC, FACHE, senior vice president, chief operating officer, and chief nursing officer for Frederick Health in Frederick, Md., offered Dec. 13 to summer and fall graduates of the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON) at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) in Rockville, Md. At the event, Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, executive vice president, provost, and dean of the Graduate School, conferred 70 Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees.
A similar graduation ceremony for Baltimore-based UMSON students was held Dec. 12 at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, with 220 graduates receiving various degrees.
“I applaud you for becoming a member of the largest segment of the health care workforce, with more than 3.8 million registered nurses in the United States,” Cioffi told the graduates and their families gathered in the packed Multipurpose Room in Building II at USG.
Maryland is one of four states in the nation anticipated to experience a shortage of 10,000 or more registered nurses by 2025. To meet workforce demands, UMSON established a BSN program at USG at its opening in 2000. In 2017, the school’s educational offerings at USG expanded to include the Doctor of Nursing Practice program’s Family Nurse Practitioner specialty. The nursing program at USG attracts students from throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
“I also want to commend you for choosing a very noble profession,” said Cioffi, who has been in in health care for 24 years, serving in progressively responsible clinical and leadership roles. She became a nurse through Frederick Community College and continued her education at UMSON to earn bachelor’s, master’s, and Doctorate in Nursing Practice degrees.
“Let me assure you that your new role as a nurse will prove to be very dynamic and challenging. With the ever-changing health care landscape, you will need to be equipped to address the many issues that will face you today and in the years ahead,” she said.
Cioffi’s address focused on what she considers the top five characteristics of a good nurse. She said good nurses are:
1. Trustworthy advocates. “When patients seek health care, they put their trust in you as the nurse to take care of them and to do what is right,” Cioffi said. “That is both an honor and a privilege. Patients trust us to advocate for their rights and to be their voice, even if we personally don’t agree with their choices.”
2. Flexible. “They must easily adapt and respond to many variables and needs throughout the shift. Bigger-picture circumstances change frequently in health care, and the science behind what we do also changes. Please don’t think for a minute now that school is finished and you’re all done. Nursing is a career filled with lifelong learning, and you have to be prepared to learn and adapt.”
3. Excellent communicators. “Solid communication skills are one of the most important aspects of good health care, and without good communication, bad things can happen. When the nurse is communicating well with the patient, family, physician, and other disciplines, there are less errors, better care, and higher patient and family satisfaction.”
4. Self-aware. “Being self-aware also means having a high degree of emotional intelligence and recognizing your own strengths and limitations. As a CNO [chief nursing officer], I can tell you that I am most frightened by a new nurse who acts like they know it all, and I am most comforted by a nurse who I trust will ask for help.”
5. Empathetic. “While patients appreciate a nurse who is technically competent in providing medical care, they also want a nurse who is compassionate and cares about their well-being. Basically, all patients and families expect us to know what we’re doing. That's why they come to us for care. By using empathy, you make a concerted effort to listen to your patient and not judge them with any kind of preconceived notion or bias that we may all bring to the table.”
Mary Etta C. Mills, ScD, MS ’73, BSN ’71, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, UMSON interim dean and professor, told graduates they begin their careers “at a time when nursing presents unparalleled possibilities. No other profession offers such a diverse range of career paths and opportunities for professional advancement.”
“We look to you for the collaborative energy needed to mitigate the impact of faculty and workforce shortages, which significantly affect the availability, accessibility, and quality of care,” Mills continued. “As the lynchpins of the health care system, you, more than any other, bear the burden of safeguarding patient welfare not only by providing highly skilled care, but by educating the public about the role and functions of nurses and advocating for greater support from policymakers.”
Jordana Thomas, BSN ’19, of Germantown, Md., was selected to offer remarks to the class.
“Today is a beginning. Savor the moment and enjoy your well-deserved celebration of goals attained,” she told her classmates. “You are a nurse for the remainder of your days and will care for others long after you put away your stethoscope and hang up your scrubs.”
After the ceremony, graduate Esther Rosa, BSN ’19, of Bowie, Md., said she was eager to begin working at Children’s Hospital in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“It was hard at times to balance school and life, but I had great support from family and friends,” she said.
Johnson Omolewa, BSN ’19, of Laurel, Md., taking a break from posing for pictures with his family, said he knew exactly what lies ahead for him.
“I’ll be going back to school to get my master’s degree, and I can’t wait,” he said.