SIDNEY – Ingenuity and safety precautions allowed Kaitlin Gillman to have a pinning ceremony with her grandmother Casey Wehrle, the person who inspired her to enter nursing.
For years Gillman had envisioned her graduation day and having her grandmother join her for the pinning ceremony, a rite of passage for nursing graduates that dates back hundreds of years. However, Rhodes State College canceled this spring’s ceremony because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Gillman’s dreams seemed to be slipping away.
“It was kind of devastating to think that she wouldn’t be able to pin me after all,” Gillman said.
Undeterred, Gillman and her family planned their own ceremony that would allow Wehrle to pin her granddaughter while following safety protocols.
With the blessing of administrators from Ohio Living Dorothy Love, where Wehrle lives in an independent living apartment, the family organized a small, outdoor ceremony on April 24. Everyone wore masks and maintained distance from each other, with Gillman and Wehrle briefly coming together for the pinning.
“It was really special for me,” Gillman said. “She was the reason why I went to nursing school in the first place.
“It was definitely a pinning to remember with the masks and everything, the distancing.”
Wehrle, who is retired from Wilson Health, wore her pin from St. Rita’s Nursing School during the ceremony.
“It was a great honor,” she said. “Katie asked me a long time ago. I thought that would be really neat that I could do that.”
Wehrle has had two granddaughters follow her into the nursing profession, Gillman and Ashley Krafcik, and she has pinned both of them.
“Both of these girls I feel are following my footsteps so I’m proud of that, like a grandma would be,” Wehrle said.
Gillman, a Lehman Catholic High School graduate, was inspired to enter nursing because of her grandmother and the compassion of nurses. She loves the opportunity the profession affords to help and comfort people.
“I like working at Dorothy Love and getting to know my residents, hearing their stories,” said Gillman, who has worked at Dorothy Love as a seasonal employee for almost four years.
Many of the residents don’t understand why their families can’t come inside to visit now and why they can’t eat meals with their friends, Gillman said. It’s been a difficult time, but the nurses have tried to be uplifting and have helped families set up virtual visits and window visits.
“It’s been different, definitely,” Gillman said. “You can tell that both residents and their family members miss them.”
One of the residents Gillman works with is her grandfather Paul Wehrle, who lives in a nursing unit at Dorothy Love. His wife and the rest of the family haven’t been able to visit him, but it’s been comforting for them to have Gillman nearby.
And for a brief moment, Gillman was able to see her grandmother and celebrate with her, just in a different setting than she had envisioned.
“It was good to be together, even out on the driveway of all places,” Casey Wehrle said.
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