A sad farewell and a happy new beginning, even during COVID

by Kelly Soto

Kelly Soto

It is so hard to believe that three years have passed since I first began my nursing journey here at OHSU and now it is coming to a close. It has been the greatest pleasure for me to share my journey and that of my classmates since day one here on Student Speak, and I hope you all have enjoyed the ride with me. For my final blog post, I would like to share with you all what it feels like as a nursing student to graduate during these challenging times and to also give you a more in-depth look into what these past three years have been like for us by posting our convocation music video at the end of this post as a special treat.

Like everyone else, I never imagined our world would be what it is today with all the changes taking place around us and I definitely did not see myself writing my last blog post under these conditions. Not one aspect of our lives has been spared from this pandemic, and everyone has felt the impact of its effects in their daily lives. Even our convocation and graduation ceremonies were not be delivered in the way we all expected and hoped for. As we are also painfully aware, we are also facing another public health crisis of racism in our society that has cast an even darker shadow on our already dark world with COVID. From the perspective of a multi-ethnic Latina, it saddens and worries me that even in our developed and affluent society, people of color and in particular the people in the Black community, are still experiencing such outright hatred and discrimination. From the perspective of a student in the health professions, it feels as though we are joining the army during a time of war. We have been trained from the get-go on how to be strong, resilient, and push through the difficult times because it is not a matter of if we face challenges in this career, but when. Yet, even in the midst of all this chaos, hate and disappointment, our hope remains as we realize that our work is cut out for us, and we are needed now more than ever before.

As nurses graduating during several unprecedented public health crises, we have the opportunity of a lifetime to make a positive impact in a world that seems to be crumbling all around us. We are coming into the nursing workforce ready to take on the challenges of this global pandemic with everything we’ve got because this is the culmination of everything we have been preparing for and this is our call to action and “active duty” so to speak. We are also blessed to be graduates of a program that is strongly rooted in respect for diversity, and we are prepared to remind the world through our actions, words and advocacy that we will not stand idly by while populations, cultures, and ethnicities are being treated as anything less than human beings deserving of the utmost respect and dignity. This is what we have given our lives for, this is the reason we have all stayed up late many nights to study for exams, why we have dragged ourselves to class and clinicals through fatigue and stress, and continued on throughout our most intense terms. Because we want to learn everything we can and be at our best for our patients once we graduate with the initials BSN at the end of our name and because EVERY patient without exception is always our top priority.

Part of the beauty of being an OHSU student is the special calling to be a torchbearer of hope
and healing and to bring our unique light to a society that is in darkness and desperation. After
everything we have been through during our nursing training and through these last few
months, we are more than ready to take on that task with great pride and optimism. The light
emitted by one torch alone may be small, but that one light is capable of illuminating the
darkness for one person who is desperately in need of that light. The best news is that we are
far from alone, and together we are all capable of casting a luminous light of hope, healing and
peace around us. I know that it is easy to be discouraged by everything going on around us, but
I encourage all of you to never lose sight of the impact we can make and what we can give back
at a time like this, because we are never defined by our mistakes, nor by the difficult times we
endure, but rather by how we have grown and blossomed in the midst of these difficulties. It is
more than just how much our world is changing for the worse, it is how we can make the change for the greater good.

I want you all to look closely at the faces of just a small handful of my classmates posted here
below. These are not the faces of new nurses who are defeated and downtrodden. These are
the smiles from well-qualified and highly intelligent nurses who have literally been through so
much these last couple of months and are still eager to enter the field they dedicated their lives
for no matter the circumstances.

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Personally, this is the proudest I have ever been to be in this profession, and I am truly grateful
for every experience I have had along this journey to becoming an RN. As one would imagine,
spending three years with classmates really brings you closer to them and before long, they feel
more like family than anything. Although I am going to miss them as we all go our separate
ways, I can’t wait to see where we each take our passions and talents and how each of us
makes a positive impact in our society through our unique skills and talents. Together we have
gone through the rigors of nursing school, together we have endured the challenges of these
times we are in, and together we will continue to fight for a more just world for our patients
and ourselves. Years from now we can tell our loved ones and our children that we didn’t just
survive these challenges as new grad nurses, we made the world a better and brighter place
during the midst of them.

As promised, here is our convocation music video that I collaborated on with my classmates Shanna Brown and Tracy Sanchez Romero Rios. A very special shout out Tracy and I give to Shanna because she took our ideas and pics and compiled them beautifully into this video☺.