University of Miami: Nursing graduates ready for the next step on their career path

Surrounded by family and friends, 117 nurses celebrated the completion of their advanced degrees, prepared for a career path in health care as advanced nurse practitioners.

On Aug. 5, the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies hosted a special ceremony at the Lakeside Village Expo Hall honoring summer graduates of the master’s and post-master’s nursing degree programs.

During the ceremony, the students received academic awards and their coveted nursing pins, signifying the commencement of their careers as nurse practitioners, from Cindy Munro, dean of the school, and Mary Hooshmand, associate dean for graduate clinical programs.

“This milestone is a springboard for your future success. Education always changes us, and your newly honed perspectives and abilities will continue to enrich you professionally and personally,” Munro told the graduates.

“I am especially proud of our pass rates on the national nurse practitioner certification exams, which are outstanding for every one of our clinical specialties. Excellent performance is a tradition I would like for this graduating class to uphold,” Munro added.

The school’s master’s degree in nursing is among the top 30 nationally, and ranked No. 1 in Florida, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school’s Master of Science in nursing and post-master’s program grads achieved a combined 95.7 percent first-time pass rate on their national nurse practitioner certification exams for 2021.

“As you begin your journey as advanced practiced registered nurses amid these intensely challenging yet opportunity-filled times for health professionals, I urge you to stay as engaged and committed as you have been in your education,” Hooshmand told graduates. “If you do, you will continue to triumph and make a difference in your patients’ lives.”

Throughout the duration of their studies, many students completed their graduate courses while retaining their jobs as registered nurses. Graduates participated in special health initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic, expanded health care outreach to homeless people across our communities, or continued providing care for patients in the middle of the pandemic.

During the ceremony, nurse practitioner program directors Brenda Owusu and Kenya Snowden presented three exceptional students—Karla Castillo Averhart, Kayla Meys, and Taylor Stephan—with the Excellence in Academic and Clinical Award for their work in the acute care, primary care, and family nurse practitioner clinical specializations, respectively.

“It is an honor to be recognized for my academic and clinical achievements,” said Averhart, recipient of the accolade for the Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program. “It means a lot to be recognized for the hard work and dedication I have given to this profession for the past 15 years.”

Averhart completed her accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University in 2007, before deciding to return to her alma mater for her master’s degree last year. She credits her husband for his support as she completed the rigorous degree program.

Meys, recipient of the Excellence in Academic and Clinical Award for the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program, is looking forward to transitioning from a registered nurse to an advanced nurse practitioner in her field.

“The knowledge base is there when you’re a registered nurse. Now as a nurse practitioner, I’m applying it differently,” Meys said. She said that she hopes to continue her work as a nurse practitioner in gastroenterology.

Stephan, who was recognized during the ceremony for her work in the Family Nurse Practitioner program, also completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University in 2016. The value of the faculty and curriculum was important to her and integral in her decision to return for her master’s degree. Stephan was excited for the opportunity to introduce her family to the many faculty members who have played a significant role in her academic and professional career.

“It was wonderful to have my professors finally meet my parents after the ceremony,” Stephan said. “UM is such a great network. All my professors were so helpful to me.” She plans on returning to obtain her doctorate in nursing in January.

Graduates also received their nursing pins—a distinctive emblem in the nursing community to signify the completion of a degree or certificate program—followed by a celebratory reception for attendees.

This is the first time, since 2019, that the school has held its annual summer awards ceremony in person. And during her remarks, the dean reminded graduates to continue to persevere.

“As you leave here, I hope you will continue taking chances; don’t fear being wrong or even failing. And, if and when you do stumble, be empowered to learn new lessons from your experiences,” Munro told graduates during the evening event. “Passion plus perseverance—together, known as grit—will take you farther than you ever dreamed possible.”

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