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Nursing team holds special pinning ceremony for new nurse who missed hers

Friday, March 24, 2017
By Blair Callahan

The time-honored pinning ceremony following a nurse's graduation represents the official transition from student to nurse and an initiation into the career of nursing. Loretta Lucas, RN, a certified medical assistant at Duke Neurological Disorders Clinic at Morreene Road, took evening classes for 2.5 years to earn her RN degree and almost missed out on her special moment.

When a death in the family caused Lucas to miss her class' pinning ceremony, the Morreene Road clinic sprang into action to plan their own special event for her.

Lucas had long been looking forward to the historically significant ceremony dating back to the 1860s, when Florence Nightingale was honored with the Red Cross of St. George for her nursing work. And Lucas knew from the moment she began working towards her degree that she wanted her mom to be the one to pin her.

"The pinning ceremony is the moment when you cross over into being a nurse," said Lucas. "It's a celebration of all you've worked for and an acknowledgement of your commitment to your patients. I was very sad to miss my class' event."

"Loretta is a part of our family, and she really needed it," said Nicole Buarotti, RN, CNII, a triage nurse at the clinic. "Since she didn't get to have it at her school, we decided to have it here where all of us love and support her."

The team planned and held a surprise pinning ceremony last month, inviting Carey Unger, MHA, associate vice president of neurosciences and behavioral health at Duke University Health System (DUHS), and Frank Demarco, associate chief nursing officer at Duke University Hospital, to speak about the significance of the nursing pin and about Lucas' years of service at DUHS, as well as officiate the ceremony.

The team organized a ceremony complete with decorations, gifts, cake, candy and sparkling cider for a toast. Nurse manager, Lindsy Anthony, RN, BSN, coordinated with Lucas' mom and sister to have them attend the event as a surprise, even sneaking them in through a side door so they could be a part of the meaningful experience.

"Loretta has a stellar work ethic," said Anthony. "She worked so hard and for so long to earn her degree. We couldn't let her miss this much earned and needed moment. Our team is committed to our core value and supporting each other, so we knew we had to come together and do something for her."

When Lucas entered the room for the surprise, Christopher Whelan, CMA, says it was one of the greatest moments he's ever witnessed.

"She was smiling ear to ear, and you could just see the happiness in her face," said Whelan. "It was amazing, making someone happy like that."

Lucas' journey to get her RN degree has been an inspiration to the staff on the unit, two of whom are now aspiring to get their degrees as well.

"Loretta has motivated me to get my degree," said Whelan. "She's an inspiration as to why it can happen no matter what – she overcame so much adversity throughout the entire process of becoming an RN. It's just inspiring to know that it can happen."

Lucas has since accepted a position as an RN in the Morreene Road clinic, where she will continue to work alongside her team.

"I'm thankful to be able to work with a strong team that cares about the work they do and looks out for each other," she said.

"She's a really caring person who wants to help everybody," said Buarotti. "She just has a really big heart, and you can see that when you meet her. I couldn't be prouder of her and our team for coming together to celebrate with her."

(This story originally appeared on the Duke Health intranet page, which is available here.)