COLUMBIA - "The nurse pin ceremony is really a right of passage for a student nurse."

Over 50 students in Columbia College's nursing program are set to receive their nurse pins Friday evening. The pandemic threatened to cancel in-person ceremonies.

"COVID has taken so much from us, like, bonding as a class," senior Addie Meyer said. "To have that given back to us was huge."

The pinning of nurses also signifies a huge boost to the nursing field, which is currently facing a shortage. The problem is big in rural Missouri, where in some counties, between 42% to 58% of nurses are older than 55 and nearing retirement, according to a study published in the Journal of Nursing Regulation.

While many other college graduates have struggled to find jobs during the pandemic, it has actually benefited nursing students looking for work.

"Probably a good 98, 99% of them have positions," Columbia College's Interim Director of Nursing Dr. Corrine Floyd said. "There is no lack of jobs in registered nursing."

That includes Meyer, who plans to stay local after graduation. She says right now is a good time to enter into the field.

"I have a job at the medical ICU at University Hospital," Meyer said. "For nursing, perfect time to graduate. It's always a good time to graduate in nursing."

After the students receive their pins, they all recite a poem together while lighting the lamps they received. The light of the lamp symbolizes "the everlasting care and devotion that the nurses admit to their patients," Floyd said.

The nurse pinning will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, in Launer Auditorium at Columbia College. No guests are allowed, but it will be livestreamed. Columbia College will hold its graduation Saturday at 11 a.m. at Mizzou Arena.

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