May 11, 2012 - Joshua Scheer, Staff WriterCentral Wyoming College president Jo Anne McFarland drew from personal experience when she spoke about the greatness of this year's nursing school graduates Thursday evening.
During the past year -- by circumstance, not choice -- McFarland experienced a number of health care situations including at a level-three trauma center as well as hospitals in other states.
"I can tell you ... CWC-prepared nurses are some of the best anywhere," she told the audience at the college's 28th nurses pinning ceremony at the Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theatre. "We are so fortunate to keep some of you in the area."
"A couple of you," she added, addressing the 17 second-year nursing students, "actually took care of one of my family members."
McFarland said it was strange being on the receiving end of the care, but she felt encouragement and comfort by the care her family member received.
She spoke profusely of this class members' capacity for care, listing their charity work that included helping with food drives, fundraising for Special Olympics and a Fremont County Public Health emergency drill.
"It makes me tired just reading the list," McFarland said.
She said it was no surprise to her that the group of compassionate people would choose the nursing field.
McFarland thanked family members, scholarship donors and local health care organizations, among others, involved in helping the nursing graduates.
"After graduating, many of these same health care institutions hire our graduates," she said, adding that historically about 80 percent have stayed in the state.
Following talk of her personal experience, McFarland singled out Riverton Memorial Hospital CEO Chris Smolik in the audience.
"Chris, you are going to love these nurses," she said.
Runs in the family
The student speaker for the evening was Viva Hetzler of Lander.
McFarland introduced the former teacher and office clerk who describes herself as "halfway to 90."
"She recognizes the majority of her classmates are the age of her children," McFarland said.
She said Hetzler is "following in her own son's footsteps."
"Viva tells me really it all comes back to her 24-year-old son, Ryan Brown," McFarland said. "Viva expects to follow your lead, Ryan."
Brown earned his nursing degree last year at a college in Washington, and Hetzler was able to pin him then.
Brown was in the audience and was later able to return the favor and pin his mother.
Hetzler then took the podium and spoke about the trials and tribulations she and her classmates had to go through during the past two years.
"We have been stretched beyond what we thought possible," she said.
She thanked the professors for the love, support and willingness to be guinea pigs for IV practice.
Hetzler also thanked Willie Johnson, the class's lone male student, for listening and at times being "one of the girls."
"Willie balanced the hormones in our class," she said.
Hetzler spoke of classmates being struck with illnesses they studied but never thought they would experience.
"Some of our classmates are not graduating with us because of illness," she said.
"I have thought of my class as kids," Hetzler added, expressing a motherly love for her peers.
Turning to Brown in the audience, she said, "You're brothers and sisters now."
Hetzler's father later joined her and Brown on stage for the pinning.
Of the 17 graduates, five either are or have plans to seek employment at Riverton Memorial Hospital. Hetzler will work at Lander Regional Hospital, and two others expressed desire to find work in the county.
Eight nursing graduates in Jackson will be recognized in a separate ceremony Sunday.
Two plan to leave the state and several others will be continuing their education.
Hetzler was presented with the Clinical Excellence Award. Megan Hughes-Phillips was given the Academic Excellence Award, and the Professionalism in Nursing recognition went to Jenny Knievel.
"We know you will bring much comfort and compassion to everyone around you," McFarland said, sending the class off as the song "I Made It" by Kevin Randolph played in the background.
Get your copy of The Ranger online, every day! If you are a current print subscriber and want to also access dailyranger.com online (there is nothing more to purchase) including being able to download The Mining and Energy Edition, click here. Looking to start a new online subscription to dailyranger.com (even if it is for just one day)? Access our secure SSL encrypted server and start your subscription now by clicking here.