Close to 300 students affirm their commitment to the nursing profession at the Ingram School of Nursing’s Annual Nursing Professionalism Ceremony.

The Ingram School of Nursing’s (ISoN) Annual Nursing Professionalism Ceremony is a rite of passage where students publicly affirm their individual and shared commitment to the nursing profession and to maintaining the highest standards in fulfilling their social contract with society.

On September 28, 2023, close to 300 students participated in this moving event marking their entry into the nursing profession with pride. Highlights included a pinning ceremony where students were called up to the stage individually by program, proudly displaying their McGill nametag for the first time. This was followed by the recitation of a special oath composed by and for nursing students. Noémie Rancourt, President of the Nursing Undergraduate Society, led the recitation in French, while Camilo Sierro Herrera, President of the Nursing Graduate Students Association, led the English recitation.

In welcoming the assembled guests, Josée Bonneau, Associate Director – Education, noted that the ceremony was taking place during McGill’s Indigenous Weeks, “a time to reflect on Indigenous history and the relationships we wish to create with the peoples whose ties to this land go back centuries.” Accordingly, Rob Spade, Indigenous Cultural Adviser in McGill’s Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic), provided an Indigenous opening that featured singing and ceremonial drumming. Describing nurses as instruments of healing in our society, he said, “I sing to to honour your work and how far you’ve come, and I drum to support and encourage you.”

The date of the ceremony coincided with the third anniversary of the death of Joyce Echequan, whose tragic story is a sombre reminder of the deadly consequences of racism and discrimination in our healthcare system. In her tribute to the life and memory of Joyce, Josée Lavallée, Director of the ISoN’s Office of Social Accountability in Nursing, urged students to “be the change agents who champion Joyce’s Principle, who speak up against injustice, and who work tirelessly to create a healthcare system that treats every individual with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Noting that nurses provide 90% of healthcare services worldwide, Anita Gagnon, Associate Dean and Director, Ingram School of Nursing, commended students for choosing this rewarding profession. “No other health care professional has such a broad and far-reaching role,” she said.

Dr. Lesley Fellows, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, emphasized the importance of putting one’s ego aside in favour of mutual respect and humility. She shared an anecdote that happened when she was a family medicine resident in a remote setting in Canada’s far north. Along with a nurse and an ambulance driver, she was transporting a patient with an abdominal wound to the nearest hospital, unsure of just how far the hospital was and how long it would take to get there on icy backroads. Administering morphine was a challenge – too little and the patient would be in unbearable pain, too much and they would run out before reaching the hospital. Suddenly, the patient woke up, recognized the road and was able to tell the treating team how close they were to the hospital. As Dr. Fellows recalled, “The first lesson I learned was that teamwork is so important. The second lesson was to always listen to the patient.”

In her passionate keynote address titled Planetary health and nursing: Shaping our desired future, ISoN Faculty Lecturer Fiona Hanley delineated concrete ways in which nursing students can help mitigate the effects of the climate crisis on our collective health and well-being. These include taking the Planetary Health Pledge, which places efforts towards a healthy planet as integral to the duty of care; consulting The Planetary Health Report Card – a student-driven assessment tool that evaluates planetary health strengths and opportunities in an increasing number of schools of health sciences; and joining McGill Nurses for Planetary Health, a powerful coalition of student, staff and faculty that advocates for climate and social justice action.

Following the ceremony, guests were invited to continue the celebration over cupcakes and refreshments.