Commencement Closeup

The nurse’s pinning ceremony scheduled for late this afternoon will carry added significance and emotion for Kerri Schuiling (Nursing). No stranger to this pre-commencement tradition, Schuiling participated in the 1973 ceremony as an NMU graduate and has witnessed many more as director of the School of Nursing. But her role as a proud parent will momentarily trump her administrative duties when she secures her own NMU pin on the lapel of her daughter (left), celebrating the fourth generation of her family to enter the profession.

Schuiling’s maternal grandmother started the trend when she received a diploma from the former Hackley Hospital School of Nursing in Muskegon. Schuiling inherited her grandma’s glass needle and syringe set, which students at that time had to purchase and sterilize between uses. An aunt was next in line, pursuing her nursing education and career in Texas. Schuiling’s career choice was influenced by close relationships with her grandma and her surgeon father.

“My family would say I always wanted to be a nurse,” Schuiling said. “I had the toy kit, cape and everything. My mom was adamantly against it because she saw how hard my grandma worked. But there was never any question in my mind. One of my dad’s surgical nurses had a daughter going to NMU and he said he heard of a good school that just recently started offering a four-year degree. I was in the second class of the baccalaureate program at NMU. I loved [obstetrics] and the science side of it. I knew I wanted to be a nurse midwife and I’ve since spent 30 years in practice and education.”

It was a maternity-related moment that helped to convince Sarah Cummiskey, Schuiling’s daughter, to apply to Northern’s program. She shadowed nurses as part of a high school health occupations class. During a C-section delivery, Cummiskey held the mother’s hand to ease her anxiety and offer comfort .


“From there, I realized nursing would be the best and most direct way to help patients and their families,” she said. “I used to think surgery would be cool because I liked anatomy and physiology. But now I would like to work in an intensive care or emergency setting because it requires in-depth knowledge and it’s an intense environment that keeps you on your toes. I think I would thrive on that.

“My mom always encouraged us to do whatever we wanted and excelled at, so it wasn’t just assumed I would go into nursing. It was my decision. And once I made it, Northern seemed like the best choice because of the pass rates on the boards and the chance to get in some clinical experience early on.”

Nursing has changed significantly since Schuiling’s grandma first entered the profession. She said there are increased demands for nurses to keep up with technological advances such as electronic charting, develop greater cultural awareness in response to an increasingly diverse population and deal with patients who tend to be sicker because hospital stays are shorter and reserved for more serious cases.

Schuiling said it was “interesting” having her daughter in the program she directs. The duo had an unwritten rule that Cummiskey should take concerns or questions to her faculty members, rather than bypassing them to address them directly with her mother. It reflected Schuiling’s effort to treat her daughter the same as any other student, from admission requirements to graduation.

“I can’t deny this pinning ceremony will mean more compared with others,” Schuiling admitted. “Sarah’s graduation is significant in itself, but I’m sure it will be emotional for both of us when I pin her with my pin. It’s like passing the torch to a new generation. Sarah is going into a wonderful profession and she is dedicated to helping people and making things better. It’s exciting because we’ll be more than mother and daughter now—we’ll be colleagues.”


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Updated: May 1, 2009

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