First year nursing students, left to right, Cara Benedue, Kevin Beasley and Lauren Baker prepare for pinning each other at the Lamp of Learning ceremony held on campus on Thursday (Photos by Gretchen Baugh)

Pinning ceremony welcomes students to nursing profession

Aug. 28, 2015

By Kathryn Kennedy
ECU News Services

A new class of East Carolina University nursing students was encouraged to pursue knowledge, emphasize service, and be honest and ethical in all matters during an Aug. 27 ceremony welcoming them into their future profession and into the College of Nursing.

The twice-annual Lamp of Learning ceremony was held at the East Carolina Heart Institute at ECU on Thursday, with students, families, friends and clinical partners in attendance. Those recognized include 119 students in the traditional bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program and 20 students in the accelerated second-degree BSN option – offered to students who previously earned an undergraduate degree in another discipline.

“Nursing is an evidence-based practice,” said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing. “It’s a scholarly profession. (Learning) will be a lifelong experience for you. You will never know everything about nursing and health care.”

Smiling students shifted in their seats as they waited for Dr. Annette Peery, chair of undergraduate nursing, to call their names.

After filing one-by-one across the stage, students returned to their chairs and helped each other attach the lamp-shaped pin to their trademark ECU purple scrubs.

The lamp is a symbol associated with Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, and it’s also one of the primary icons on the additional ECU nursing pin students receive at graduation.
Students recite the College of Nursing Pledge at the Lamp of Learning ceremony. (Video courtesy of ECU College of Nursing)

“I definitely feel official as a group,” said Kevin Entwistle, an ECU junior and first-year nursing student from Mooresville. “We’re all in this together now.”

Fortunately, Entwistle said that’s not a new feeling for him. He was a resident of the Future Pirate Nurse Living and Learning Village – an on-campus housing community for freshmen who intend to study nursing.
They supported each other throughout the two years of prerequisite classes and exams that preceded applying to and entering the college, he said.

Gaining entrance into ECU’s nursing program is a competitive process. In addition to meeting prerequisites, each student must earn an acceptable score on a national pre-admission exam to be considered. The average GPA of the incoming class is 3.7. Eighty-three percent of the students are from North Carolina.
First year nursing student Anna Zeng, who underwent brain surgery for a tumor this summer, was back in time to enjoy the Lamp of Learning ceremony. With her are ECU College of Nursing Dean Dr. Sylvia Brown, far left, and Zeng's grandparents, Paul and Sharon Lombardi.

School of Nursing Director of Development and Communications Elizabeth Willy told the incoming students that nursing faculty and staff are here to support them, too.

“Every day it’s (their) job to come to work and make your academic journey a success,” she said.

“This group is one that takes care of each other.”

First-year nursing student Anna Zeng already knows that’s true. A member of the accelerated second-degree option – which began during summer school – Zeng suffered a seizure as she completed her first exam.

A diagnosis of a tumor forced her to undergo brain surgery at Duke just weeks ago, but she was back at ECU today with only a slight bruise under her left eye and a promise to return for routine checkups and MRIs.

Zeng’s classmates gave her a standing ovation as she crossed the stage – an emotional moment for her grandparents, who watched from the audience with a poster that celebrated her arrival as a “Pirate Nurse.”

“We’re very proud of her and we love her so much,” said Sharon Lombardi of Shalotte. “She’s overcome a lot to get here.”

“I feel very, very blessed,” Zeng said, adding that this experience has heightened her interest in conducting research as a nurse.

Over the course of the next four semesters, Zeng and her classmates will prepare to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors. ECU’s bachelor-prepared nurses pass the state nursing licensure exam at a rate that’s among the highest in the state and well above the national average. The spring 2015 graduating BSN class earned a 96 percent first-time pass rate, and members of the ABSN class earned 100 percent.