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Remarks by Dr. Maureen O'Reilly, Executive Director of Nursing

On this special day, I want to congratulate you on your accomplishments, and for all the hard work that has gotten you to this point, but you have not gotten here alone. You have had an enormous amount of help along the way from your families, friends, fellow students, faculty, monks, and the many nurses who have also taken part in your education.

You will now join the ranks of nurses who have received pins that link them to their educational institution. Your pin will forever mark you as a Saint A's nurse. You have the distinction of graduating from a rigorous program with a foundation in the liberal arts and Benedictine values.

These are the values that you bring to the bedside, along with the knowledge and skills you have mastered. You will be wonderful nurses not only because of the nursing curriculum, but because of your philosophy and theology courses, your volunteer activities through the Meelia center, winter and spring break alternatives, the Relay for Life and the Road for Hope, and this only touches the surface of your involvement.

The important thing to remember is that you have the foundation, but your real education is just beginning. I imagine that during your preceptorship you realized just how much you still need to learn. You will begin your career as a novice nurse, and becoming an expert in whatever area you have chosen will take time and effort. It often takes years of experience (and experience is the key here) to develop the capacity to respond intuitively in the manner of the expert nurse. This is the nurse who can see the big picture and is already thinking three steps ahead as they begin to act. Your goal is to become an expert in knowledge and skill, but you also need to be an expert in compassion as well. As a new nurse, you may not have the ability to act and be compassionate at the same time. When your patient assignment seems overwhelming, or you are performing CPR or resuscitating a newborn, you may need to focus on the task at hand. It's possible to lose sight of the caring and compassion that you know are an essential part of nursing, but you must forgive yourself and realize that putting it all together takes time. You will be able to do this.

So this is the next step: master the skills and become an expert in your chosen clinical area. Observe and learn from the expert nurses you will work with, attend conferences, read journals and research, and carefully consider and examine every day, so that you continue to learn from your experiences.

You are concluding the first part of your education and are embarking on the next phase. You have the knowledge, skill, and ability to become an expert. Remember that you should never let a day go by without reflection, and never consider your education complete.

Congratulations, and remember that we are proud of you.

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