Newly licensed nurses at BWH celebrate with peers and colleagues at a reception after their pinning ceremony.

One morning following a long night shift at the Brigham, Becky LaMay, RN, then a patient care assistant in Palliative Care, stayed late to comfort a patient who had a difficult day. Before she left, LaMay asked the patient’s nurse if there was anything else she could do to assist him. He replied, “Yes, go to nursing school.” The brief interaction would become a defining point in her career.

“It was one of those seemingly inconsequential moments that he probably doesn’t remember, but I will never forget,” said LaMay.

Shortly after that day, LaMay had to unexpectedly leave her job at the Brigham to deal with her own health concerns. She urgently needed two spinal surgeries, which led to a monthlong hospital stay. Reflecting on her transition from caregiver to patient, LaMay remembered the nurses who were always there for her: “They fiercely advocated for me, treated me like a human and a friend and cheered me on, especially when I wasn’t cheering for myself. They assured me that I would be able to return to the medical field, and they were right.”

After a few detours in her career path, LaMay enrolled in nursing school – hoping that she would one day return to the Brigham for her first nursing job.

“And here we are,” said LaMay, now a newly licensed nurse (NLN) on Tower 11ABD, the Thoracic Intermediate Surgical Unit, and one of many new BWH nurses honored at the Department of Nursing’s Newly Licensed Nurse Pinning Ceremony on May 7. The event also celebrated the naming of the Newly Licensed Nurse Program in memory of Nora McDonough, a nurse who provided home care for the late Yousef Karsh, a BWH patient and world-renowned photographer. McDonough was also a special friend to Mr. Karsh’s wife, Estrellita Karsh, a supporter of the program.

Now known as the Nora McDonough Newly Licensed Nurse Program, the yearlong program provides new nurses with the foundation for a successful professional career and personal growth through a variety of orientations, classes, bedside simulations and case studies.

During the event, which kicked off the Brigham’s celebration of National Nurses Week, LaMay spoke about her experience in the Newly Licensed Nurse Program at BWH and how it has helped her navigate the first year of nursing practice.

“Between the NLN classes and orientation, BWH offers the most comprehensive NLN education that I know of,” said LaMay. Praising the nurses who lead the NLN classes, she added, “It is with their guidance that I have become comfortable in my new role and continue to grow during each shift. They are my teachers and have helped me learn to celebrate every victory and cope with each sorrow.”

A Special Connection

Underscoring the important contributions of BWH nurses, Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, congratulated the nurse honorees and reaffirmed the hospital’s commitment to providing a robust support system for new nurses that will set them on a path for success for years to come.

Gina Valeri is presented with a pin celebrating her recent graduation from nursing school.

“I hope you are all enjoying your journey,” Nabel said. “You have my gratitude for choosing to work at the Brigham.”

Emphasizing that nurses receive continued support from their colleagues and hospital leaders, Ron M. Walls, MD, Brigham Health executive vice president and chief operating officer, encouraged NLNs to take advantage of every opportunity to learn from their peers.

“We are proud of how nursing is practiced at the Brigham, and we are proud of you as newcomers,” he said. “You are going to learn from some of the very best nurses in the world.”

Maddy Pearson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Patient Care Services, spoke about the importance of having a comprehensive NLN program at the Brigham and noted the special connection she feels with new nurses as she soon marks the completion of her first year at the hospital.

“I felt like a member of the Brigham family immediately, and I want every nurse to feel the same. I’m so proud of you, and look forward to watching you grow, becoming experts in your practice and, most of all, making a difference for our patients and their loved ones,” Pearson said.

Stephanie Ahmed, DNP, FNP-DC, executive director of Clinical Effectiveness, echoed these thoughts, asking the new nurses to think about what it truly means to be a nurse.

“It’s when the science, the skills and the heart are combined that the art of nursing is practiced and the essence will be encountered,” Ahmed said. “To me, that’s what it means to be a Brigham nurse. And today, with this pinning, it’s my hope that’s what you’ll aspire to and what you will become.”