Home News Local news Capping Ceremony Good News for V.I. Nursing Shortage

Capping Ceremony Good News for V.I. Nursing Shortage

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Dec. 1, 2006 – Juan Luis Hospital CEO Gregory Caliste had kind words for 11 students on their way to filling a nursing shortage in the territory. "Juan Luis Hospital is here for you [we're] here to support you until the end of the program," said Caliste, whose remarks came Friday during a capping ceremony for the students, who are halfway through a 15-month practical nursing program.
The program is a joint venture between the hospital and the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center.
The "capping ceremony," whereby each student was fitted with a white nursing cap, was largely symbolic, according to registered nurse Cynthia VanWingerden, who has been running the Practical Nurse Program since 1986.
The "cap was to cover nurses hair so as not to contaminate wounds," she said. These days, nurses do not wear caps, but it remains a symbolic gesture.
VanWingerden, who along with Barbara Gentilucci did the capping ceremony, said that the last seven months have been and are the toughest part of the program for students because two-thirds of the work completed is in the clinical area. The students care for patients mostly and spend the rest of the time in classroom settings, she said.
The next eight months will include hands-on work in pediatrics, mental health, maternity and post-partum and doing community service projects, she said.
VanWingerden, who said that the group became a close-knit family, choked back tears when she described how two of the women had to be talked out of quitting the program "because it can get tough."
"All of them are here today," she said to applause from mostly family members and hospital staff gathered in the cafeteria to witness the ceremony. The whir of camcorders and camera clicks were an ever-present part of the ceremony as family members memorialized the occasion.
Desiree Destouche, who VanWingerden said "always wanted to be a nurse," described the program as "exciting" prior to getting fitted with her cap.
She said Friday night's ceremony "showed that all the hard work and study finally paid off."
Wendy St. Louis had just one word to describe what she was feeling after seven months of grueling work: "Tired."
Another classmate, Kimberly Jarvis, said that she was joyful.
"I accomplished something some only wish they could," she said.
Caliste, like others who took part in the ceremony, told the students to not be discouraged and offered words of encouragement to each.
Caliste, who said the territory's hospitals have been constantly dealing with nursing shortages, said he maintains an open-door policy and invited students to seek him out whenever they need to.
"If you want to speak to the CEO, come up and speak with me," he said. "I encourage you."
Caliste added that he is already looking forward to the day the students will be applying for jobs with the hospital.
Alicia Farrelly, a counselor with the St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center, also expressed gratitude to the students noting that they had taken "the first step in this endeavor to help us staff nursing staff shortages."
By the end of the program, the students will be certified as licensed practical nurses. Like many of her classmates, St. Louis said that she will enroll in UVI's nursing program and study to become registered nurse.
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