BOONEVILLE • Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program held a drive-by pinning ceremony for its 83 graduates on Tuesday.

Graduates drove down Cunningham Boulevard where they were handed diploma covers, graduation lamps and cords, nursing pins and awards/certificates by instructors.

Camille Beals, the Associate Degree Nursing program director, said President Ricky G. Ford and the NEMCC Board of Trustees gave the program permission to confer students’ degrees early, on May 6, and many students have already applied for board certification or have received authorization to be tested this month.

Prospective nurses must also be fingerprinted as part of a background check to receive their licensure, which is another issue they’ve run into, Beals said. But the graduates are allowed to have temporary licenses for up to 120 days while requesting a card for fingerprinting from the Mississippi Board of Nursing, have it mailed to them, and get fingerprinted by local law enforcement. It then will be mailed back to the board.

With the temporary license, they can practice “in an expanded capacity” but “not quite to the full extent of a registered nurse,” Beals said, which will help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’ll be in training for a while, but they’ll definitely be a big help to the facilities (where they work),” Beals said.

Students spent the first part of the semester doing clinicals and being in the hospital, so transitioning to an online format after spring break was “extremely hard” for them, nursing instructor Heather Kirk said.

The drive-by ceremony was the most they were able to do in place of a traditional pinning ceremony, which is when graduates receive nursing pins from school faculty.

“It’s hard because you want to recognize them even more than usual for what they’ve done, but we can’t,” Kirk said.

Dakota Belue, an ADN graduate from Belmont, said she’s thankful for her time studying at NEMCC.

“We didn’t plan for this to happen,” Belue said. “It happened and we’re making the best of it. But for them to be able to put this together, it means a lot to all of us students.”

Belue will be working at North Mississippi Medical Center beginning later this month.

Lauren Watson, Morgan Gooch and Sarah Sullivan traveled from New Albany on Tuesday for the drive-by ceremony. All three are going to work at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford.

They were excited to see their instructors and friends in person, having not seen them in more than two months.

“I just think it’s great that they’ve come out and let us be able to see them one more time because they’ve had an impact on us throughout these two years,” Watson said.

“It’s one thing to be able to see somebody online and it’s another to be able to see them in person,” Sullivan said.

Nursing instructor Amanda Sullivan said the annual pinning ceremony is special for graduates and this was the best, safest alternative that the school could put together to honor them.

“We love to keep up with them (after graduation) and see them grow and go on different adventures in their nursing career,” Sullivan said. “So it’s just a special thing to get to see them one last time.”

blake.alsup@journalinc.com

Twitter: @AlsupTheWriter

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