Two dozen students who have completed Grossmont College’s renowned nursing program were saluted Thursday night, Dec. 15, in an emotional nurse pinning ceremony marking the end of the training needed to embark on their careers as health care providers.
Graduates at the event, which took place at Cuyamaca College’s Performing Arts Theater, included several immigrants and the mother-and-daughter team of Colleen and Kayleigh Dotson.
“Our students come from very diverse backgrounds, married, single parents, some working full time, 40 hours a week, and took part in a very vigorous program, so this is quite an accomplishment that we are celebrating today,” said Interim Senior Dean of Allied Health and Nursing Dr. Domenica Oliveri. “This is a very impressive bunch of students and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Students have traveled different paths to reach their destination.
Nhien Nguyen came to Grossmont College after emigrating with her sister from Vietnam in 2007. She said she chose the Grossmont College Nursing Program because of its reputation among health care professionals. “It’s really a good program,” said Nguyen. “They offer a lot of clinical hours to help you get used to working in a hospital. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel confident about my future in nursing.”
Michael Arenson came to Grossmont College by way of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, where he began his undergraduate studies majoring in biology with thoughts of becoming a trauma surgeon. Instead, he decided to go into nursing.
“I heard nothing but good things about the Grossmont College program, it was affordable, and people I knew who were working in hospitals were praising the quality of Grossmont students,” said Arenson.
Over the next few years, he gained invaluable experience while putting in some 650 hours of clinical work at medical centers throughout the county, including Kaiser in San Diego, Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and Rady Children’s Hospital.
“The amount of time we actually worked in hospitals and got hands-on experience was pretty impressive,” said Arenson. “It was a good decision to come here.”
Amy Fisher shared similar sentiments. Like Arenson, she, too, had thoughts of becoming a doctor. But after volunteering at the UC San Diego Burn Unit, her mind was set on a different career.
“I saw how connected the nurses were with their patients, and I decided then that’s what I wanted to do,” she said, adding that choosing Grossmont College was one of the best decisions she has made. “The quality of the program here is amazing. They train you to have the skills like no one else can. It’s a very challenging program, but you get the support you need and the end result is you are more prepared for working in the field.”
Graduates are now qualified to take the National Council Licensure Examination, the last stop needed before becoming a registered nurse. Pass rates for Grossmont College students, though, are among the highest in the state, with more 91 percent passing last year. Most students will pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing before settling on a career in the medical profession – a profession in which job openings are expected to increase by 16 percent nationwide during the 10-year period ending in 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In California, the job market is even better. Projected employment is forecast to jump from 256,000 registered nurses in 2014 to more than 300,000 in 2024, with a median wage of $102,000 annually, according to the California Employment Development Department.
Fifteen graduates, such as Fisher, will stay at Grossmont College while they pursue their bachelor’s degree in nursing through a partnership with Point Loma Nazarene University that enables them to further their studies without leaving the El Cajon campus.
The modern nurse pinning ceremony dates to the mid-19th century when Florence Nightingale – the founder of modern nursing – was pinned with the Red Cross of St. George for her dedication in caring for injured soldiers during the Crimean War. By the First World War, the practice of pinning new nursing school graduates had become standard throughout the United States.
Said student speaker Sasha Carter: “Tonight is when we celebrate our transition from humble students to proud and able nurses.”
About Grossmont College
Grossmont College is “Changing Lives Through Education” and has served the diverse educational needs of San Diego’s East County since 1962. With a wide variety of certificate and associate degree programs, Grossmont College provides workforce training, career development and transferable college-level coursework to its more than 18,000 students. For more information, visit Grossmont.edu.