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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Nursing school graduates told to continue learning, grow as leaders

Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor
Deborah Trautman, the keynote speaker and the president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, speaks to nursing school graduates.

Speakers encouraged nursing school graduates to cultivate a life of learning at a Thursday morning graduation ceremony in the Charles E. Smith Center.

After a bagpipe processional led about 500 graduates through the center aisle to their seats, speakers urged graduates to rise above tough challenges in their careers and strive to build upon their education.

1. Find opportunities to create solutions

Deborah Trautman, the keynote speaker and the president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, told graduates that their education has prepared them for “rich” experiences in their careers. She said the students are now part of the solution to many of the country’s health care problems, like high costs of treatments and poor care quality.

“We are in a period of unprecedented change,” Trautman said. “This change will bring opportunity, but it is not always going to be easy.”

She said graduates should find a “seat at the table” in policy conversations and focus on three aspects: challenges, celebrations and care.

“Don’t be constrained by the world as you know it today,” Trautman said. “Dare to imagine what it might be and strive to achieve it.”

2. Continue to learn throughout life

Trautman told graduates they need to commit to a life of learning to make an impact in the nursing world.

“I hope that each of you will seek out mentors throughout your career and also offer to be a mentor to others,” she said.

Trautman said she hopes graduates live a life filled with “meaning,” and will aim to grow as students and professionals.

“I hope that you will allow yourself the comfort to recognize that there are many options for you, and either path would usually take you in a great direction, as long as you continue to think about what you’ve learned and build upon that learning,” she said.

3. Making a difference

Student speaker Kelly Wheeler, who earned her master’s degree Thursday, said when graduates feel “overwhelmed” in the health care industry, they should remember to take a breath and push forward.

“It seems to be an inherent trait of nurses to make a difference,” Wheeler said. “We influence lives and the world through patient care, via science and education. As leaders and policy makers, heralding change, no matter how outstanding or minor.”

Pamela Jeffries, the nursing school dean, said graduates are faced with an ever-changing health care landscape, but they are prepared to adapt to new challenges. She said nurses are called on to care beyond hospital walls, and graduates should meet those responsibilities.

“Maintain the idealism which inspired you to choose nursing,” Jeffries said. “Be true to the special relationship nurses have with their patients. As you bear witness to vulnerable moments, let the dignity and grace of your patients and their loved ones be an inspiration to you.”

She said graduates should refine the critical thinking and communication skills they learned as students when they face challenges in their careers and remember to prioritize their well-being.

“Three words: work, life, balance,” Jeffries said.

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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