RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s wasn’t quite the pomp and circumstance you would expect to celebrate a major accomplishment, but the pinning ceremony for the nursing students at Wake Tech Community College could go down as one of the most memorable yet.

In the pouring rain, each of the 64 graduating students drove up to the Perry Health Sciences Campus for a drive-by pinning ceremony. Students remained in their cars to practice social distancing. 

“This may be the most special pinning ceremony we’ve had, ” said Wake Tech President Scott Ralls. 

“A drive-by pinning ceremony, not pomp and circumstance, but recognizing a very special class of nursing graduates from Wake Tech who will leave Wake Tech and go straight to the frontlines of our healthcare workforce,” he continued.

Ralls greeted each graduate with congratulations. He stood next to their professors and department head Dr. Ann Marie Milner,  who all shared in the excitement of the moment. 

While the ceremony wasnt conventional, the college’s nursing department still continued some of the special traditions, which included passing out their nursing pins, along with a copy of the Florence Nightingale pledge. The pledge symbolizes each graduates commitment to the nursing profession. 

And that commitment is already being put to the test. Class of 2020 is headed to workforce during a global health pandemic. It’s something graduating students like Morgan Parker think about, but welcome this unexpected challenge.

“2020, this is the year of the nurse and I don’t think we expected it to be like this,” said Parker moments after receiving her nursing pin. 

Parker has accepted a job at WakeMed. 

”It’s daunting going into this field during this pandemic,  but that’s what we’re ready for, trained for,” she continued.

Her classmate Alyssa Tsoumbos echoed her sentiments.

She also accepted a nursing role with WakeMed. She’s headed to the hospital’s emergency department. 

”We’re not really scared or anything. I think being a part of the healthcare field and graduating in this is something we really didn’t expect at all, but we are kind of ready to just go out and help people no matter what,” said Tsoumbos.

Due to COVID-19, the North Carolina Board of Nursing recently instituted a “Graduate Registered Nurse” status, which allows nursing graduates like Parker and Tsoumbos to go straight to work while waiting to take the NCLEX.  

Testing sites across the state have also been reduced along with the number of students who are able to take the exam at one time.

”I’m just ready to hit it head on and help people in this time of need , ” said Jennifer Friedler, a graduating nurse. 

She said the last two years were tough, but she weathered the storms along with her classmates. Friedler has accepted a job at Vidant Health in Greenville, North Carolina.

Graduates will be ready to enter the workforce as early as May 8.