Nurses, ‘this is your night’

36 nursing students graduate RCC

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – more than 500 images

HAMLET — Charlice Antoinette Burnett might have surprised a few folks along the way to being pinned as a registered nurse.

Jerry Ethridge wasn’t among them. Ethridge ended a 35-year teaching career while at Richmond Senior High School. Burnett was one of his last students.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Charlice Antointte Burnett receives her pin from Carole Gibson, chair of the Richmond Community College nursing department.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Charlice Antointte Burnett receives her pin from Carole Gibson, chair of the Richmond Community College nursing department.

“Her name was always being called out over the intercom, being in trouble with something,” Ethridge said. “She’s a loud-mouthed girl. Not in a bad way, but she kept talking too much and getting herself in trouble.”

It wasn’t the type of attention a college-bound, aspiring-nurse kind of student needed. Ethridge was among the faculty at Richmond Senior High School who encouraged students like Burnett — in any way possible — that “you’re better than that.”

“You have,” Ethridge recalled telling her, “too much potential.”

Burnett was one of 36 students who walked across the stage Thursday night inside the Robert L. and Elizabeth S. Cole Auditorium and Community Center on the campus of Richmond Community College in the 38th annual Associate Degree Nursing Pinning Ceremony. Twenty of the students are Richmond County residents. All 36 are expected to be a part of the formal graduation ceremonies on Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at RCC.

On Jan. 29, Burnett reached out to both of them through social media.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dr. Michelle Taylor Skipper, a nurse for more than two decades, challenges the nursing graduates to consider the ceremony a beginning and not an end.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dr. Michelle Taylor Skipper, a nurse for more than two decades, challenges the nursing graduates to consider the ceremony a beginning and not an end.

“I don’t know if you remember or not, but I made you a promise four years ago at Richmond Senior High,” Burnett wrote to Ethridge on his personal Facebook wall. “I told you I was going to be a nurse and invite you to my graduation. Well, I get pinned as a(n) RN on May 14 … You made a bigger impact on my life than you know, both you and (fellow teacher) Donna Tedder. I hope to see you both there!”

Ethridge, of course, was there. So was Tedder. And they weren’t alone in challenging Burnett and the other 35 graduates to think of Thursday’s ceremony as not a resting point. Instead, it was one to enjoy for a moment, then get ready to work.

Keynote speaker Dr. Michelle Taylor Skipper said she understood much of what the students were going through, and what might be going through their minds.

“You’re about to change roles in life and about to become a new nurse,” Skipper said. “It’s scary stuff.”

In 1985, she was about to graduate high school. She liked cars, Skipper said, and she wanted to go away to college. Her father persuaded her to stay close to home by buying her a new “candy apple red Ford Mustang convertible.”

Submitted photo Charlice Antoinette Burnett, center, is surrounded by two of her biggest supporters during her years at Richmond Senior High School in Jerry Ethridge and Donna Tedder.

Submitted photo
Charlice Antoinette Burnett, center, is surrounded by two of her biggest supporters during her years at Richmond Senior High School in Jerry Ethridge and Donna Tedder.

Skipper said she thought about the situation.

“So I came all the way from Monroe to Laurinburg to explore the world,” Skipper said.

The world, though, is full of opportunities, Skipper said, and those opportunities can begin presenting themselves as soon as Friday.

“Tonight is about you,” Skipper said, noting that “graduation is not the end, it’s the beginning.”

Skipper issued a challenge to the three dozen newly minted nurses in the audience: some of them need to pursue higher education and become teachers. She also suggested that while some students, through the very act of graduating, might have proved some detractors wrong, it was more important to focus on those who have been there every step of the way and thank them.

“You have proved your encouragers right,” Skipper said.

Ethridge said as a teacher, very few students ever come back and say thanks. It was gratifying to hear from one of his former students who recognized his efforts.

“I didn’t even know she was at RCC doing nursing,” Ethridge said. “It excited me to know that you’re teaching and caring for a student actually showed up as a positive and it made a difference to a kid’s life. To me, that’s what it’s all about. To me … if you really care about those students, they’re gonna learn from you. It’s a nice day to see a student say, ‘hey, thank you.'”

Ethridge said it was also gratifying to see a student who had an early dream and worked hard to make it real.

“She knew she wanted to be a nurse,” said Ethridge, whose wife worked for 37 years as an operating nurse. “I know what it takes to be a nurse. It ain’t no easy job. Especially being an RN — that’s a big deal.”

Skipper said the same thing, and said the challenges don’t go away. She spoke of the changes in the field of nursing over the past two-plus decades. She recalled her mentor, an LPN from Maxton who worked with her in Scotland County. The woman worked in the nursery when segregation was still the rule. Then, one day, it changed. The woman was stunned she was suddenly “good enough” to care for white infants.

While society has evolved, the health care field will continue to change as well.

“I challenge you to think about the fact that nursing will be different five years from now,” she said. “You will not practice in a silo, in isolation. We have to get back to keeping the patient at the center” of health care management.

“You might feel like a naive, new nurse; you are,” Skipper said.

But there’s a reason for the heavy burden of the two years of study.

“You know patients,” she said. “You are just as valuable as any part of the health care team.”

Dr. Dale McInnis, RCC president, spoke briefly. He gave credit for the 36 students’ successes “to the finest nursing faculty in the state of North Carolina.”

To the graduates, “this is your night.”

Awards

Ashley Stubbs was presented the Golden Stethoscope Award, presented by Sandhills Regional Medical Center to the graduate who has demonstrated special interest and skill in the ICU/ER.

Tonya Covington was presented the Hamlet Hospital Alumni Award, presented by Hamlet Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association in honor of Dr. William Daniel James to the graduate who has shown proficiency in nursing, high professional standards, scholastic achievement, love for humanity and participation in student activities.

Kareem Boles the Mental Health Nursing Award, which is presented by Lloyd and Mary Louise King to the graduate who has demonstrated exceptional skills in promoting emotional, psychological and social wellness to clients across the lifespan.

Krista Thompson was presented the Obstetric Award, presented by Carolinas Women’s Center to the graduate who has demonstrated outstanding interest and excellence in obstetrical nursing.

Dustin McCallum was presented the Pediatric Award by the Lillian Duer James family in honor of Dr. William Daniel James to the graduate who has maintained and demonstrated a superior ability in nursing of children.

Abbi Mack was presented the Phyllis Caviness Gerontology Award, determined by faculty recommendation to the graduate with special knowledge and skills in geriatric nursing.

Jessica Hunt was presented the Scotland Memorial Hospital Nursing Service Award, determined by the vote of the nursing director and nurse managers. The award is presented by the hospital to the graduate who best meets the criteria of scholastic ability, professionalism, interpersonal relationships and a caring attitude.

Britteny Clark was presented the Scotland Memorial Hospital Adminstration Award, determined by the vote of the nursing director and nurse managers and with the approval of the hospital administrator. This award is presented by the hospital administration to the graduate who is most dedicated to caring.

Alberta Hall and Mezzo Tolo were each presented the FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital Professional Nursing Award, determined by faculty recommendation to the graduates who but demonstrate the following characteristics in his or hr nursing practice: patient-centered and family-centered approach to care; patient advocate; evidence-based practice; and collaboration with other health care team members and disciplines.

Stacy Wyndham was presented the Lauara Suan Sharpe Memorial Nursing Award, presented by the family of Laura Susan Sharpe to the graduates who have shown the most care and compassion to cancer patients.

Amanda Young was awarded the Susan Sharpe Cancer Support Group Award, presented by the Susan Sharpe Cancer Support Group to the graduate who has shown the most car and compassion to cancer patients.

Lauren Burris was presented the Joseph W. Grimsley Humanitarian Award, presented by RCC nursing faculty to the graduate who has consistently demonstrated warmth, caring and love for mankind in all his or her relationships and associations.

Kezzy Tolo was presented the Scholastic Achievement Award, presented by the Lillian Duer James family in honor of Lillian Duer James to the graduate who has maintained the highest grade point average in the nursing curriculum.

Graduates

Kareem Colon Boles, Aberdeen
Charlice Antoinette Burnett, Rockingham
Lauren Ashley Burris, Ellerbe
Amber McIntyre Chavis, Rockingham
Michelle Lee Chavis, Maxton
Britteny Nicole Clark, Ellerbe
Ryan Scott Cole, Rowland
Laquisha Shanette Covington, Rockingham
Tonya Sue Covington, Laurinburg
Nerissa Latoria Davis, Rockingham
Rebecca Anne Dold, Laurinburg
Tanisha Michelle Douglas, Red Springs
Kelli Blake Franklin, Rockingham
Jeanie Nash Fulp, Ellerbe
Alberta Clarice Hall, Laurinburg
Jessica Anne Hunt, Laurel Hill
Kayla Denise Leviner, Rockingham
Erin Elizabeth Mabe, Rockingham
Abbie Myria Mack, Laurinburg
Dustin Ross McCallum, Candor
Melissa McDonald, Rockingham
Whitney Nicole Moore, Rockingham
Amber Lynn Odom, Gibson
Jenna Maree O’Neal, Hamlet
Tarah Leigh Radford, Hamlet
Kristen Lane Sears, Rockingham
Ashley Marie Stubbs, Hamlet
Jasmine Nicole Sturdivant, Polkton
Nerissa Michelle Tender, Rockingham
Stephanie McInnis Tew, Wagram
Krista Lynn Thompson, Laurinburg
Kezzy Lorrine Atieno Tolo, Laurinburg
Alisha Nicole Underwood, Rockingham
Jessica Laine Wilson, Rockingham
Stacy Danielle Windham, Morven
Amanda McDonald Young, Rockingham.

 

Filed in: Education, Ellerbe/Norman, Featured News, Hamlet, Health, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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