1. Kelly, Jacinta RN

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Since the transfer of the nurse's graduation to the college campus, the celebration is no longer a colorless, limp occasion, but rather a dazzling spectacle, glittering with majestic pomp and ceremony. To the unrefined eye it may seem like a silly costume competition, as pageants of nursing wizards assemble to showcase the academic hierarchy in all its glory. But to the urbane nurse, it represents liberation from the doldrums of a formerly lacklustre affair where a grisly dress code dominated the mood of the proceedings.


Black knee-length capes lined with violet silk were previously worn on this occasion and communicated more a sense of pistols at dawn than comforters to the sick. Beneath the menacing capes, nurses were attired uniformly with a shapeless white frock. Zipped up the front, the uniform bore a chilling resemblance to the hospital's mortuary bag The uniform was heavily weighted with badges and broaches bearing allegiance to the causes of breast cancer, pro-life, aids, An Bord Altranais, and the Irish Nursing Organisation. Resultantly, nurses tended to approach the proceedings lopsidedly. Starched caps were also an obligatory accessory and proved unruly unless sutured to the scalp. Melancholic black tights matched to morose black orthopaedic shoes contributed to an altogether terrifying combination.


White cotton gloves were also sported, leading guests to believe we were all plagued with some virulent skin disorder. The urge to shake our hand was understandably resisted. Instead, like a Mullingar heifer we received a congratulatory clap on the back as we humbly accepted our certificate rolled up and ribbon bow tied to look like a diploma. Celebrating mass was pivotal to the celebrations and one had the fearful sense that the event at its best, resembled an ordination and at its worst, a sacrificial ceremony. The dreaded photo session then ensued, where the nurse was ushered to stand alone behind a vacant parlour chair. With hands poised clumsily against the back of the chair, it almost seemed like the nurse was pushing an antique wheelchair, blissfully oblivious to the fact that the patient had disappeared.


Nowadays, the occasion is a much more sophisticated affair. Similar to a wedding, the preparation is extensive, consisting of intense facial and hair refurbishments, extending to body-firming seaweed wraps, cellulites-zapping massages, stress-busting submersion tanks, and a massive hunt for a devilishly sexy outfit. Video cameras are present to capture our smouldering look. It is a brazen show of our newly acquired esteem and we are lavishing in it.


The guest speaker encourages us and confirms decadently to the congregation that pride is good. Family and friends observe the proceedings and are outwardly supportive with their rapturous applause. However, silently they plead with the speaker to discourage this lurid sense of pride and lament under their breath "what we had to go through," hoping sincerely that "this is the last of it."


To them it is incomprehensible that nurses should have to write 21,000 words to illustrate their competence at handing out tablets and commodes. Secretly they believe our dedication to learning is couched in vanity and self-importance and runs contrary to nursing's altruistic origins. It is unthinkable that pride and vanity could represent nurses' commitment to their craft.


We file forward in our black gowns and mortarboard hats to obtain our award. It is clear that we have traded one daft costume for another. However, we are steadfast in the resignation, never to return to a nursing graduation ceremony that made us look like we were briefly excused from the ward to accept our phoney diploma. At the risk of outing our shameless self-regard, we are intent on elaborately marking our scholarly achievements.