This year’s graduating class from the Lincoln University School of Nursing faced multiple challenges to accomplish the goal of getting a degree.
On Friday night, the 53 graduates on the Class of 2021 were honored in a ceremony at Richardson Fine Arts Center.
LU officials said all the graduates had achieved greatness having spent their last year of school working through a pandemic.
“I think we’re all very tired, but we’re happy,” Grace Reece, of Columbia, laughed. “I picked Lincoln because of the reputation of the nursing program, which is really solid.”
Reece has taken a position in the intensive care unit at the Harry S. Truman Veteran’s Hospital in Columbia.
“I come from a family of nurses,” Reece said. “My mom, my grandma and four aunts were all nurses.”
LU’s nursing school was born in 1967 of a request from three Jefferson City hospitals — St. Mary’s Health Center, Memorial Community Hospital and Charles E. Still Osteopathic Hospital — to address a shortage of registered nurses. The Memorial Community and Charles E. Still hospitals later merged to form Capital Region Medical Center.
Both Jefferson City hospitals continue to support LU’s nursing program by providing access for students to do their clinical experiences.
Georgia Roark, of Jefferson City, is the first in her family to become a nurse.
“Being able to commute to school helped with my costs and hearing the amazing things about this school were the reasons I chose to come to Lincoln,” Roark said. She will be working on the medical/surgical floor at St. Mary’s Hospital.
“I’m not necessarily scared going in, but I’m eager to see what it’s going to be like,” Roark said.
Olivia Windsor, of Russellville, said she always wanted to be a nurse so with the reputation of the school and it being close to home, Lincoln was the best choice for her. She’ll be going to work on the pediatric unit at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Columbia in June.
“I was a lifeguard and I always have liked working with people,” Windsor said. “I wanted a job where I could constantly learn and push myself. Nursing school has been hard, but I enjoy learning. This job will always be challenging and give me something new. It also offers a lot of opportunities because there is so many things you can do with nursing. I think it was a great career choice.”
Several LU nursing school alumni have gone on to become physicians, nurse practitioners and educators.
Latosha Brackett is originally from Jamaica. She had already received a degree from Lincoln in chemistry but wanted to come back and pursue a career in nursing. Brackett will be working on the medical/surgical unit at St. Mary’s and at the mental health unit at the Fulton State Hospital.
“Initially, I wanted to get into nursing, but when I saw the wait list to get into the program, I switched to chemistry,” Brackett said.
Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the graduates said they were able to work with their instructors to get the fundamentals they needed to make it through their courses.
“It was very stressful, and you had to be mentally strong,” Brackett said. “I worked as a tech, and I did have to deal with COVID patients. Every time you went into their rooms, you wondered if you would contract it while at the same time trying to comfort the patients because they couldn’t breathe.”
Reece said the transition to online classes during the pandemic required a lot of flexibility on faculty and students.
“You had to be self-disciplined because you were almost entirely self-paced to get through your courses,” Reece said. “Lincoln did their best to keep us in field clinical settings, which I really appreciated. That way, we could have the appropriate clinical hours and feel prepared.”
Windsor said there were a lot of unknowns when they had to be in an online setting.
“That was the hardest part of dealing with COVID, not knowing if we are going to have class or not have class,” Windsor said. “Nursing is something you need to have hands-on experience.”
“I think we all were able to adapt pretty fast because that’s something you have to do in nursing,” Roark added.
Prior to the pandemic, nursing was seen as one of the most in- demand jobs in the country and the need for trained nurses has only grown because of COVID.
“It was really good to see what it’s like going through a pandemic because I’m sure we’ll see something like this again in our lifetime,” Roark said
LU education grads commended for ‘remaining steadfast, staying course’