BEMIDJI -- Spaced six feet apart, sporting forest green Bemidji State polos, with stethoscopes draped over their shoulders, 62 future nurses were welcomed into the BSU nursing program during an in-person induction ceremony on Saturday.

The group, taking the plunge into a health care profession during a time when nurses are arguably needed more than ever, signed the esteemed Florence Nightingale nursing pledge and received badges.

Associate Professor of Nursing Carolyn Townsend, who announced her retirement at the induction ceremony, said she still fondly recalls her own nursing induction ceremony, years ago.

“Every year, going through this with the students, it renews me,” she said. “It makes me remember why I’m doing this and renews my commitment to passing the torch to the next generation.”

The socially-distanced ceremony in BSU’s Beaux Arts Ballroom allowed nursing students to celebrate their achievements while following COVID-19 mitigation measures recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota State system and others, Bemidji State University faculty said.

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The student nurses had their name badges ceremonially affixed to their nursing polos by faculty and signed the Nightingale Pledge in front of a number of their peers in attendance.

Townsend expressed regret that the families of students were not able to be in attendance for the event.

“It’s a big deal. Their families are so proud of them for getting accepted into the program. They (usually) come and bring flowers and bring the grandmas and the babies and the aunt who was a nurse who inspired them. It’s too bad the families weren’t able to be there,” she said.

The ceremony was streamed live online for the friends, family and communities of the future-nurses.

During the ceremony, the cohort heard remarks from Jim White, interim dean of the College of Individual and Community Health, Marci Maple, department chair and professor of nursing, Rachel Vesta, assistant professor of nursing and senior nursing students Sarah Lagos and Elizabeth Christenson.

Saturday’s ceremony featured a group recitation of the Nightingale Pledge to express the values shared among nurses. All inductees, as well as BSU faculty, stood and read the pledge.

Townsend said this crop of future nurses is special, because they have seen the impacts of the pandemic first hand, and still chose to enter the field.

“I think they are feeling the importance of nursing, they have seen it in action, and remain committed to going into this profession,” Townsend said. “They have to be a caring individual and have a passion to serve others.”

“I think it’s the greatest of all professions,” she added.

Townsend mentioned that this class of nurses was particularly special to her, because among the class of inductees, one was a daughter of a pair of nursing students Townsend taught during one of her first years teaching at BSU.