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Healthcare professionals are at the forefront of many minds as those on the front lines of the COVID-19 emergency. On Friday, Collin College celebrated more than 60 graduating nursing students who are ready to face that world with a “pinning parade” at the McKinney campus.

The traditional pinning ceremony is a rite of passage for nursing graduates. The pinning originated in the 1860s when Florence Nightingale was awarded the Red Cross of St. George and later presented a medal to her nursing graduates.

Collin College typically holds a more traditional pinning ceremony at its Conference Center, but this year’s event looked much different due to distancing guidelines and COVID-19 concerns. The inaugural, and possibly only, pinning parade saw the nursing graduates and their family members in their own vehicles driving through the McKinney campus to be individually recognized for their achievement.

The graduating nurses took on a rigorous two-year nursing program, as opposed to the four-year bachelor program for registered nurses.

“It’s one of the most difficult programs community college has,” Collin College President Dr. Neil Matkin said. “So you want to celebrate your students, and it’s kind of a cool deal to figure out a way to figure a way to celebrate 65 graduates who are coming through this year. We’re very proud of them.

“To see these people celebrating their own success, I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

Dr. Mark Smith, vice president / provost of the McKinney campus, said that as the father of a recently graduated respiratory therapist, being able to celebrate this milestone with the nurses is particularly close to him.

“And when we thought we weren’t going to get to, we were all really saddened, and then the nursing team came up with this idea of coming out here and doing a pinning parade,” he said. “It’s such an amazing thing to be able to celebrate such a significant attainment. And these people are going out and they’re going to start working immediately for very needed areas in healthcare.”

Dr. Jane Leach, dean of nursing, said the faculty never wavered when classes had to go virtual earlier this year, and programs such as online simulations have been put in place that the college will likely carry into the future. She said they even saw higher scores on exit exams this year, despite the drastic changes.

In a similar event next week, Collin College staff will recognize over 80 graduating allied health students from dental hygiene, diagnostic medical sonography, health information management, polysomnographic technology, respiratory care, surgical assisting and surgical technology programs.

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