Pinning ceremonies for nursing students are often elaborate events with speakers, special singing, lighting of Florence Nightingale candles, special awards, and, of course, pinning of graduating students by nursing faculty.

All of the pomp and circumstance is proper recognition of the dedication and achievements students make in their journeys to become nurses. Nursing is a career which demands high standards, a career where mistakes in patient care can have substantial consequences for life and health. Not all make it through the program. For those who do, it is a crowning achievement. It is a night that stands out to students for the rest of their lives.

As nursing standards have evolved, nursing aide programs have also begun to recognize the higher levels of care performed by nurse aides than the care they might have performed in similar jobs 30 or 40 years ago. McDowell Tech is one of the schools that recognizes such achievement for these frontline workers.

But when a pandemic hits, all of the pomp and circumstance of pinning ceremonies is thrown out the window as social distancing and statewide orders trump the desire to recognize achievement. Disappointment abounds among students.

Such has been the case this spring at McDowell Tech. “I guess we will not be able to be recognized like the fall nurse aide students were with a pinning service because of the COVID-19 restrictions,” said one student as the end of the semester approached.

Jane Gouge, director of the nurse aide program, heard the disappointment in the student’s voice and saw it in her eyes. That disappointment was all it took to convince Gouge and her nurse aide faculty members that they need to do something special for these students.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us, nurse aides, nurses, doctors and other healthcare providers often put their lives on the line to administer comfort and care to patients at the risk of their own health and that of their family members. As newly minted nurse aides, these graduates are the “Superheroes of the Future,” Gouge and her staff thought.

And with that thought, a special recognition event began to take shape in their mind and within 48 hours, Jane Gouge, Anna Goble-Talley, Penny Lonnon, Wanda Daves, and Sarah Jornigan planned and organized an alternative pinning ceremony designed to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and best practices regarding social distancing, safety and health.

The alternative event they launched was a very special “drive-thru” recognition service, a service that occurred this past Saturday in one of the large parking lots on the campus at McDowell Tech.

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