"A little nervous but mostly excited to start this process in my life," nursing student Jherin Wunker explained as she talked about how she's feeling as she prepares to treat her first patients on Friday.
"It literally, like, touches my heart to be able to go out and help people," she shared. "And sometimes it’s their worst situation where we kind of get to, like, help lift them up and make them feel better in a situation where they probably don’t feel that themselves."
As part of that preparation, USC Sumter’s nursing program honored it's students as they gear up for their clinical rotation.
Dean of Nursing at USC Aiken Thayer McGahee said after the old capping tradition dissolved in the 70’s, she helped brainstorm a new tradition.
In the old nationwide ceremony, students would receive their nurses cap. As uniforms evolved and more men started to join the profession, this ceremony became less popular, McGahee explains.
"We really felt like there was something in the socialization of nurses kind of missing and there was always something special before students were able to go clinical for the first time," McGahee said. "And the capping was that rite of passage in the olden golden days."
In place of the capping, some schools now opt for a white coat ceremony similar to medical school ceremonies. McGahee wanted something else.
"We're not medicine, we’re different, and we wanted something unique to nursing that really spoke to what nurses do that is different and unique," she explained.
That's why she came up with the Dedication of Hands ceremony, which started at USC Aiken about 15 years ago.
"We really just kind of want to bring students to really think about what they’re doing as they're working with patients and to really take it seriously and realize the impact that touch has on patients and how meaningful that can be when you really have your heart and your spirit in it," McGahee said. "It’s not just the technical tasks that you’re doing, which are all important that you do those psychometric skills well, but it’s the heart that you put behind what you do that really makes a difference in giving patient care."
She tells me this ceremony has caught global attention. She’s gone as far as Germany to honor new nurses by dedicating the hands they will use to care for patients. Now, McGahee gets to expand this on a local level.
"I think it’s really special that they saw a gap in the ceremonies and rites of passage from previous nursing with the cap ceremony and that they wanted a sense of comradery with the new students and that they filled that need," nursing student Christian Sterner told me.
This is the second cohort to go through USC Sumter’s nursing program after it started last year.
"We’re really just looking to grow the program in the community," nursing instructor Sarah McDaniel said. "We need to produce new nurses in the community."
According to nursing administrator Tina Simenson, this year the program has expanded.
"It’s going very, very well," she said. "This group is a little bit larger than our first. We started out with a smaller cohort the first round."
This year’s cohort has 14 nurses, which is six more than last year's innaugural class. Next academic year, Simenson says the program will expand even further to include 16 spots.