Vanderbilt School of Nursing pins record-breaking number of graduates

Damon Perry, Brittany Nelson
The largest number of students — 370 graduates — in the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing’s 108-year history graduated from their academic programs and were celebrated in pinning ceremonies Sunday, Aug. 5, at Langford Auditorium.

The 276 Master of Science in Nursing students in attendance received the VUSN pin signifying their entrance into the advanced practice nursing profession. Twelve Doctor of Nursing Practice degree students received lavaliers to attach to their nursing school pins, while 11 advanced practice nurses received Post-Master’s Certificates denoting that they had finished specialty education beyond their master’s degrees. An additional 71 students were unable to attend the ceremonies.

Pinning is a treasured tradition unique to nursing, with each nursing school having its distinctive pin identifying its graduates, explained Dean Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, and the Valere Potter Menefee Professor in Nursing. While the tradition can be traced back to the Crusades, its modern significance began with Florence Nightingale, who presented medals of excellence to her nursing graduates.

Pinning was held in two ceremonies, with four specialties featured in the morning and six in the afternoon. During the celebrations, specialty academic directors announced the recipients of their program’s outstanding student award. They were:

Lorna Morris — Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP)
Jaime Young — Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP)
Susannah Spero — Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Gianna Brabrand — Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
Josh Viele — Nursing Informatics (NI)
Molly Brennan — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care (PNP-AC)
Darshi Edirisooriya — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (PNP-PC)
Kelsey Pope — Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
Kaitlyn Breiten — Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

Two additional student awards were announced. The Amy Frances Brown Prize for Excellence in Writing went to AGACNP student Kristina Holmes for a paper on hepatorenal syndrome.

The VUSN Alumni Association Award for Student Excellence in Service and Leadership to School and Community was presented to Anne Sizemore. The FNP student was recognized for volunteerism at Shade Tree Clinic, participation in the Vanderbilt Program for Interprofessional Learning and involvement in the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership.

During the ceremonies, nine faculty members were honored with Sara K. Archer Awards for outstanding contributions to student learning. The student-voted awards went to

Joan King, PhD, ACNP, ANP, FAANP — Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Jennifer Kim, DNP, GNP-BC, FNAP — Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
Mary Lauren Pfieffer, DNP, FNP-BC, CPN — Family Nurse Practitioner
Nancy Kraft, MSN, APRN, NNP-BC — Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
Jeff Gordon, PhD — Nursing Informatics
Missy Evans, DNP, APRN, CPNP-AC — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care Brittany Nelson, DNP, CPNP-PC — Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
Jessica Searcy, DNP, FNP-BC, WHNP-BC — Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Virginia Gardner, MSN, PMHNP-BC — Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Dean Linda D. Norman and AGACNP Specialty Director Brian Widmar congratulate graduate Kendarius Talton (center).
Left, Dean Linda D. Norman, DSN, FAAN, congratulates graduate Mary Ann Enriquez after AGPCNP Specialty Director Leslie Hopkins pinned her.
Family Nurse Practitioner student Phat Ho blows kisses to the cheering audience before being pinned.
VUSN Alumni Association Board Member Cathy Maxwell presents FNP student Anne Sizemore with the association’s award for student excellence in service and leadership.

Family Nurse Practitioner Specialty Director Courtney Pitts presents the specialty’s outstanding student award to Susanna Spero.Left, Virginia Gardner received the student-voted Sara K. Archer outstanding teaching award for the PMHNP specialty. To her right are fellow PMHNP faculty Vaughn Sinclair and Susie Adams.

Shannon Storey (center) was one of 12 Doctor of Nursing Practice students to receive lavaliers from DNP Director Terri Allison (right). With them is Dean Linda D. Norman.
Left, Dean Linda D. Norman watches as Karen D’Apolito is hugged by neonatal student Jacqueline Weidauer.
Pediatric Nurse Practition-PC Specialty Director Brittany Nelson surprised Darshi Edirisooriya with the specialty’s outstanding student award.
Dean Linda D. Norman, FNP graduate Vanesa Abad and Specialty Director Courtney Pitts after Abad’s pinning.

The Nursing Informatics outstanding student award went to Josh Viele, here with specialty director Trish Trangenstein after the presentation.
Tamika Hudson, chair of VUSN’s School Life committee, awarded the school’s Amy Frances Brown Prize for Excellence in Writing to AGACNP student Kristina Holmes.


Top image:
Pediatric Nurse Practition-PC Specialty Director Brittany Nelson pins student Damon Perry. 

Photos: Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt University