Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing


Students introduced into the profession of nursing

Students entering into the junior year of the nursing major at the University of Wyoming Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing took part in a special ceremony Wednesday afternoon, August 25th, in the Arts & Sciences Auditorium at the University of Wyoming.

Thank you to the following individuals for...

  • serving as MC throughout the ceremony (Nursing Dean Sherrill Smith);

  • offering welcome to students from the College of Health Sciences (CHS Assoc. Dean Michelle Hilaire)

  • guiding students through the Nightingale Pledge (Nursing faculty Christina Warren)

  • announcing students as they signed the pledge (Nursing faculty Ashley Lair)

  • assisting students in signing the pledge (Nursing staff/advisor LeAnn Amen)

  • playing organ music to accompany the ceremony (community musician, organist "Punch" Williamson)

individual headshots of six individuals assisting with nursing ceremony

Ceremony name change

The ceremony, formerly called "The Nightingale Ceremony", was this year supported by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, and thus was named "The Gold-AACN White Coat Ceremony for Nursing".  The overall point of the ceremony continues to be to stress the importance of upholding the high ethics in this "most respected" profession of nursing.  Students, faculty and staff sign "Nightingale Pledge" posters, hung in the hallways of the school outside the simulation center as a reminder of the commitment each has made. Read further below for the wording of the pledge and picture of the finished, signed work enclosed in glass in the school hallway.

Speakers discuss the Nightingale Pledge

To help students more deeply understand the pledge and what it "looks like" in the clinical setting, nursing Dean Sherrill Smith introduced two speakers who shared their perspectives of the pledge. The first speech came from recent alumna Morgan O'Conner, BSN '20, and the second from current Student Nurses' Association President Natalie Birdsley. Read further below for more about the speeches each delivered.

Community Partner Award show students importance of clinical agencies

Also part of the event was the naming of community partner awardee of the year, celebrating an agency that works with our school to give our students an excellent clinical education. Dean Sherrill Smith introduced the 2021 Community Partner for the Basic BSN and BRAND nursing programs, Banner Wyoming Medical Center. Read further below for specifics.

Preceptor of the Year Awards show students importance of nursing staff

Preceptor of the Year Awards were also given out by Dean Sherrill Smith at this ceremony. Preceptors are nurses in our clinical agencies who agree to take students under their wings and get their feet wet working with real patients (instead of simulated patients!). Both community partners and preceptors are vital for educating students to be ready for the workforce. Read more below about the Preceptor of the Year awardees, Tara Legler from Banner Wyoming Medical Center, and Whitney Smith from Campbell County Health.



pledge signed by students hanging in an enclosed glass case in the school hallway

Nightingale Pledge - upholding the high ethics of the nursing profession

In this pledge, students make a commitment to the highest professional and academic standards of the nursing profession. They pledge dedication to a profession responsible for the lives of others. They recognize their accountability to the public for their actions. They pledge to safeguard the health and welfare of clients. They commit to work with and be supportive of their peers as they all pursue excellence in nursing education. They vow to behave ethically, honestly, professionally, and with integrity in all learning endeavors. They pledge to seek to promote ethical behavior and report unethical behavior. They pledge to treat fellow students, faculty, staff, clients, and community partners with dignity and respect while embracing diversity in values and beliefs. They pledge to advocate for clients in need, to embrace the complex role of the professional nurse. They seek to be a living role model for others, and recognize that responsibility for acquiring new knowledge does not end with graduation, but will be a lifelong endeavor.

Young woman with long brownish-blonde wavy hair and blue face mask

Morgan O'Connor, BSN '20: Speaker for 2021 Ceremony

Morgan O'Connor, 2020 graduate from the UWYO Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing Basic BSN program, was main speaker for the 2021 Ceremony. O'Connor works at the Swedish Medical Center in Colorado on Med Surg Trauma ICU. She came to the UW's nursing program as one of three Marcia Dale Aspire Scholars for that year. The Aspire Program was devoted since 2013 to promoting nursing leadership and producing nursing leaders. O'Connor's speech for this 2021 event described what she feels is involved when telling a patient your name and that you will be their nurse for that day--what is the meaning behind such a statement? She emphasized, "YOU are the person that for the next twelve hour shift will have the honor of caring for the patient; for someone's family member, best friend, mentor, chaplin and every title in between." O'Connor said there were times when she was the only hand a patient had to hold when family couldn't be present. She did everything in her power to let a mother, brother, aunt, uncle or friend hear their loved one say hello just one more time. "Our profession is an indescribable honor."

Masked young woman with dark long hair stands at microphone to speak

SNA President Natalie Birdsley delivers exhortation

Natalie Birdsley, current senior and president of the Student Nurses Association, welcomed the new junior students into nursing. She shared an experience at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center OR, when a nurse asked her if she wanted to go see a heart. “…Be sure to add ‘yes’ to your vocabulary at clinicals and use it excessively!” Natalie witnessed an open-heart Atrial Valve Repair and said staff was excellent educating her through the process. The surgeons—who were very kind and had a passion for teaching-- invited her to stand where she could closely observe. She was told the patient was a 57-year-old healthy male, and instantly the procedure became “a lot more personal.” Natalie’s dad had the same procedure. She remembered what her whole family went through. The patient on the table quickly became someone’s dad, brother, son, loved one. She remembered how scared her family was waiting to hear how his procedure went; she remembered seeing her dad hooked up to a ventilator in the ICU… but she felt like he was “so safe where he was because of the nurses that poured their hearts and souls into their jobs and made my family feel like theirs. It is easy to forget these things when a patient is open on the table with their faces draped and covered, or when they are 1 of 25 patients on your floor, or when they are your 10th case of abdominal pain in the ER that day. They are so much more than just another body that is taking up space on your unit... Give the care that you would want given to your own family. But you cannot take care of others if you do not take care of yourselves first! Find a hobby, a creative outlet, a support system; take time for your mental and physical health, and be ready to learn every single day.”

two women, masked for COVID, accept plaque award for their agency

Banner Wyoming Medical Center 2021 Community Partner Awardee

One of the agencies students will experience in their clinical time is likely to be Banner Wyoming Medical Center in Casper. This agency received the school's 2021 Community Partner Award at the August ceremony. Representing Banner WMC were Susan Chambers, Director of Nursing at their facility; and Liz Haecker, Director of Education. Banner WMC was the first agency to welcome students back during the COVID-19 pandemic. They provide a rich learning experience, and ensure students see a wide variety of patients. Preceptors are professional and eager to help students as they transition into the role of the RN, carefully pushing them out of their comfort zone, but always there to support them and helping them grow confident in their abilities as nurses. The school is always very thankful for BWMC's part in the students' education, but even more so during this unknown and topsy-turvy time of a pandemic. Read more about BWMC's award by clicking in the "Banner Wyoming Medical Center..." title above.

Young woman with short blond hair

Tara Legler / Basic BSN Preceptor of the Year 2021 Award

Student nominating Tara: Haley Crews. "Tara was recently nominated one of Wyoming's Nurses of the Year. After my semester with her, it is no surprise. I came to her a timid student with little self-confidence, full of doubt. She took my potential, built me up in ways I didn't know was possible. She imbedded in me a deep confidence and sense of hope; she went from holding my hand with each task to trusting me to take on multiple patients alone, while she worked in the background. I am unsure I can every properly thank her how she impacted me as person/student. I will be a great nurse because of her. I will never forget being with a patient when told he only had a couple weeks to live. He teared up; thanked us for caring for him. When we left the room we were both emotional. Tara said, ‘This happened to me when I was a student; my preceptor told me to get it together and suck it up.’ But Tara said, ‘Never be ashamed of your compassion and empathy. The day you stop having empathy for patients is the day you should no longer be a nurse.’ I will never forget that moment with Tara. I feel beyond fortunate to have learned from her!”

Woman with straight hair, in black and white striped top, blue eyes

Whitney Smith / Basic BSN Preceptor of the Year 2021 Award

Student nominating Whitney: Sierra Vetter. "Stepping into the nursing world as a student is intimidating. The overwhelming desire to know everything coupled with inevitable imperfection is a stressful relationship. But having a preceptor who understands these emotions, remembers what it is like to be in our shoes, can make a world of difference. Whitney went above and beyond to facilitate my transition from student to professional. As a UW FWWSON alumna, she embodied the type of nurse the program strives to produce. She committed herself to my education, providing time, understanding, and expertise necessary to allow me to grow/develop, preparing me to make a difference. She continually provided the gentle nudge needed towards independence while ensuring I was supported every step. Her expertise/passion for ER nursing inspired me to explore unfamiliar concepts, learn new skills. I have been able to reach full potential under Whitney’s knowledge/guidance. I owe every ‘you will make a great nurse’ patient comment to her ability to educate. If I end up being half the nurse Whitney is, I will count that a success."

student and faculty "elbow bump" instead of hugging after student signs Nightingale Pledge

Faculty member Christina Warren leads pledge and congratulates with elbow bump

Faculty member Christina Warren, MS, RN, led the students in reciting the Nightingale Pledge, while fellow faculty member Ashley Lair, MS, RN, called students forward individually to sign the large display that will hang in the halls of the school during the students' tenure. Following signing, Warren and Dean Sherrill Smith "elbow bumped" each student--what's become the standard COVID hug/handshake, as they handed out gifts and congratulations.

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University of Wyoming
1000 E. University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307)-766-1121

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