Two Nursing Graduates Get Unconventional Pinnings

By Spencer Watson

So it was with some dismay that two of this year’s UAMS College of Nursing graduates, Sarah Guarnieri and Heather Bound, each earning their bachelor’s degree in nursing, had to miss the official pinning ceremony May 15. Guarnieri missed because she was having a baby, Bound because a very dear relative was in the hospital.

Still, it was even more important to the college that these two students not be left out.

“The UAMS College of Nursing is dedicated to supporting our students in so many ways, and making sure two graduates don’t miss something that is very important to them is just one example of how we can show that support,” said Ava Coleman, M.S., a recruiting specialist for the college.

In each case, college faculty and administrators made sure these students got their ceremony.

“I’d just had my baby two days before the pinning ceremony,” said Guarnieri, who explained her original due date had been May 20, just two days after commencement. She knew ahead of time that things could get complicated, but she’d intended to make the pinning. With nursing being a second degree, she said, “I’ve walked across the stage before. Pinning was the big deal to me.

“But having your first baby is more special even than that.”

Sarah Guarnieri (center) holding her new infant and surrounded by College of Nursing faculty following her pinning.

Sarah Guarnieri (center) holding her new infant and surrounded by College of Nursing faculty following her pinning.

So when her baby came early, she posted pictures on social media with a graduation cap and smiley face emojis, wishing her classmates well and telling them she’d be there in spirit. Shortly after, she got a message from Leah Richardson, Ph.D., RN, a clinical instructor in the college who’d been one of her teachers.

“She sent a message asking if we could get together some time to do the pinning,” Guarnieri said. “She offered to come out to my house, but I said we’d already be out and about on May 20 with a pediatric checkup, so I came to the college.”

And there, with most of the faculty, administration and her husband and new daughter in attendance, Guarnieri was pinned on what had originally been her due date.

For Bound, the complications were more unexpected.

“I live with and care for my grandparents, who are more like parents to me than anything. Starting in March, my grandmother began having multiple strokes. On May 9, she had one that put her out pretty bad,” Bound explained.

She, too, was earning a second degree and had planned to skip commencement. But she really wanted to attend the pinning – and wanted her grandmother there.

“My grandmother wanted to be there. We’d planned for her to be there, because she had been in somewhat good health,” Bound said.

After the May 9 stroke, Bound’s grandmother was in the hospital and was unresponsive, unable to talk or even eat. Bound called Leslie McCormack, M.Sc.N., APRN, a clinical instructor, and explained the situation and asked to be excused from the pinning ceremony.

“She said, ‘I hate that for you, but we understand, with everything going on,’” Bound said. “And that was that, or so I thought.”

Then, about half an hour later, McCormack called back and asked if it would be ok to come pin Bound at the hospital with her grandmother. Emotionally, Bound said yes.

“On the day we’d picked out, I went to the hospital with a few invited friends and family. I got a photographer to take pictures, because I wanted my grandmother to have those pictures if she should awake again,” Bound said. “I was in the hallway when the elevators opened and pretty much the entire faculty of the College of Nursing was there. I can’t explain what that meant to me. It was pretty special to see all of them there.”

Bound said even her stoic grandfather shed a few tears – and still does today when he proudly tells the story. Importantly, her grandmother got to be there for the ceremony, too.

Heather Bound with her grandmother at her pinning. <I>Photo credit: Makenzie Evans.</I>

Heather Bound with her grandmother at her pinning. Photo credit: Makenzie Evans.

“I think she knew it was happening. We’d been telling her for a few days what was going to happen, but we weren’t sure if it was registering because she had been unresponsive. Then the day before she kind of opened her eyes and spoke a little,” Bound said. “On the day they came, I don’t know if she opened her eyes, but when I told her my teachers were there and were about to pin me, she started crying. So I think she knew what was happening.”

Bound said her grandmother, who has since woken up and recovered somewhat, doesn’t recall the ceremony. But she has the pictures – and Bound, herself, has a very special memory, for which she is grateful.

“I did not expect them to do that,” said Bound, who was only expecting McCormack and perhaps one or two others. As thanks, she wrote cards for each faculty member and, as an artist, painted little wooden blocks with angels dressed as nurses, each with hair color to match the faculty member for whom it’s intended.

“It’s nothing compared to what they did for me. I can’t repay that. Still, hopefully it pays them back just a little bit,” Bound said.