Carthage College honored a group of pioneers with a symbolic ceremony on Saturday.
The school’s inaugural graduating class of nursing students received the school’s first nursing pins in front of college officials, local health-care professionals and proud family and friends at the Todd Wehr Center.
The 13 seniors receiving their pins will graduate today with Bachelor of Science of Nursing degrees.
Seven years ago, Carthage considered starting a nursing program as a response to a growing need of health-care professionals.
With the demographic of Americans age 65 and older reaching a historic proportion, more than 1 million jobs in the next three years will be needed to fulfill adequate care of those individuals, according to Carthage president John Swallow.
“The 13 of you are making Carthage history as our first graduating class of nurses, and I couldn’t be happier,” Swallow told the seniors.
“You are needed. With the launch of the nursing program, you helped Carthage re-energize our responsibility to society and its varied challenges.”
Carthage’s nursing program was created in 2015 and was awarded a five-year national accreditation status by the Commission of Collegiate Nursing Education in December 2018. The program has approximately 200 students.
“Being the first group of graduates, there is an awful lot of work that goes into it,” said Frank Hicks, Carthage professor and director of nursing.
“It really was a team effort. No matter how much experience you have, until it all comes together you never know how it’s going to work out. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes you have to make tweaks.
“What’s really fulfilling is having these students as freshmen and seeing them as seniors and the amount of growth that has occurred.
“They’re taking on the role of the professional and really going to go forward and represent Carthage and the profession of nursing very well.”
Kenosha resident Samantha Nichols served as president of Carthage’s Nursing Student Council. As a testament of pairing career choice with opportunity, Nichols graduates today and begins work on Tuesday at Froedtert South.
“Being part of the first class is such an honor,” said Nichols, who will become her family’s third generation of nurses. “I’m excited for the next chapter.
“I’ve been working for two years a student intern. This transition is a long time coming. I feel like I’ve been waiting in the wings ready to start.”
Hailey Rothstein, also a member of the school’s inaugural nursing class, was presented with the Future Nurse Leader of the Year Award by the Wisconsin Nurses Association. The Schaumburg, Ill., native was one of five nursing students across the state to receive the honor.
“It’s crazy to think the group of us that started freshman year are now here,” Rothstein said. “Speaking for the 13 of us, emotions are at an all-time high. I think we’re all ready to get into the practice of helping people and do what we set out to do.”
With roughly 30 percent of nurses expected to retire in the next five to 10 years, the job outlook has never been brighter for nurses.
Hicks said about half of his graduating students already accepted job offers.
“I’m just thrilled to be a part of it,” Hicks said. “The Kenosha community has just opened its arms to this program, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a labor of love.”