On Sunday, a dozen spectators gathered at the Kodiak College parking lot to attend the commencement ceremony for the first students to graduate from the college’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
Spaced 6 feet apart and clad in face masks paired with elegant outfits, the six graduates stood in two lines waiting to affix their nursing pins and light candles from the “lamp of knowledge,” representing their transition from students to professionals.
The degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage School of Nursing is the first of its kind in Kodiak, giving Kodiak-trained nurses an advantage that they did not previously have.
Until recently, Kodiak College offered an associate degree in nursing, but according to associate professor Margie Mete, the Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center prefers to hire nurses with bachelor's degrees.
“The community values the nurses trained here in the community,” Mete said. “It’s nice when they’ve hired someone who has been trained here because they can hit the ground running. They know the community, they know the hospital, they know the employees at the hospital.”
The short graduation ceremony ended with a reference to Florence Nightingale, a scientist and the founder of modern nursing. Graduates lit candles from the Florence Nightingale Lamp of Knowledge and recited the Florence Nightingale Pledge.
“We are taking her founding knowledge and keeping it alive,” Mete said.
Two of the graduating students, married couple Inna Brichka and Joshua Obas, moved to Kodiak for nursing school after they both were accepted.
“First it was just me who got accepted, then a week before our wedding, she got accepted,” Obas said.
As the first of its kind in Kodiak, there were challenges with transitioning the curriculum from an associate degree program to a bachelor's degree program, on top of issues with completing in-person clinical classes after the pandemic hit.
Typically, clinical training offers students a hands-on experience in a hospital setting, but this year, as campuses closed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Kodiak’s nursing students had their training cut short and had to complete it online.
Despite these difficulties, the students were excited to move on to their future endeavors, as nurses and doctors have been working on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know it's going to be dangerous, but I also know the health care field is behind us,” nursing graduate Sofie Romero said. “I’m excited to be entering the nursing profession and to help other nurses who have been working really hard.”
Other graduates include Yehonathan Cabrera, Kristin Elizabeth and Chloe Nelson.