CMC’s graduating class of nursing students undeterred by pandemic, eager to begin serving patients in the field |

CMC’s graduating class of nursing students undeterred by pandemic, eager to begin serving patients in the field

Nurse graduate Briana Lencioni and her husband Jonathan seal her graduation from the nursing program with a kiss on May 8 at the CMC Spring Valley nurse pinning ceremony. Photo Ed Kosmicki

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc worldwide and exhausted individuals on multiple levels. One may think that it would have created a change of heart for students planning to enter the medical field, but this was not the case for three of Colorado Mountain College’s campuses, Spring Valley, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs, with nearly 75 nursing graduates from the class of 2021.

Dr. Whitney Erickson, Interim Program Director and Chief Nursing Officer for the program, said the pandemic actually turned out to be a sort of mixed blessing for her and her students.

“While it’s been a challenge, I think a huge, very important lesson these students learned about nursing is flexibility. I always say if you come in with plan A and leave your day with plan A as a nurse then something probably didn’t go right. Because you’re constantly adjusting to that change,” Erickson said.

Michael D. Curry originally earned her registered nurse’s certification in 2016 and returned to CMC for her bachelor’s of science in nursing and graduated this spring with the degree and the Outstanding Bachelor of Science nursing award. Curry writes in an email that a misconception about nursing is that the position is just there to assist doctors, when really most of the work nurses do is independent and completely driven by a patient’s needs.

Associate Professor of Nursing Dr. Whitney Erickson (right) presents Michael Curry with the Outstanding Bachelor of Science in nursing award.

“Nurses are the champions of patient advocacy, and they are the behind-the-scenes translators that aid patients in understanding every aspect of the healthcare process,” Curry wrote. “It will often be a nurse, not a doctor, that assures you know how to care for yourself and access necessary resources after leaving a healthcare facility.”

Commencement speaker, Ryan Dax, graduated with his associates of applied science in nursing. Dax said COVID-19 didn’t change his desire to become a nurse, but rather showed him just how crucial the profession is. One memory stuck out to him in particular where he volunteered with other students for an event with Colorado Mission of Mercy or COMOM, where they provided free dental care to almost 2,000 people on the Western Slope for free.

“We had a guy who was missing all his teeth and couldn’t serve food, and they got him free retainer implants,” Dax said. “He started crying and was like, ‘you guys have no idea, I can get a job as a food server again. You changed my life.’ … Seeing people in that place where they can start living again essentially, that’s really rewarding to be like, ‘hey I was a part of that,’ you know?”

Dax said this class of nurses was tight-knit and always willing to help out one another since they were all working towards the same shared goal. Erickson also spoke to the camaraderie between students and the heightened appreciation they gained for the diverse career they were preparing to enter together.

Student speaker Ryan Dax celebrates with his parents after the CMC Spring Valley nurse pinning ceremony on May 8.

“To be in nursing school in a pandemic, nursing school is hard enough as it is and to throw that on top of it was a challenge. I tell you, I was so proud of these students they rose to the occasion and they worked really hard to get to where they’re at,” Erickson said.

In two weeks Dax will be wrapping up his current job at Valley View Hospital as a patient care tech and moving to Grand Junction to start a job as a nurse at St. Mary Hospital. Curry works currently in a clinic setting, also at Valley View, but wants to pursue a supervisory position to play a part in healthcare reform, as well as get her certification in urology.

“Though the long hours can often be grueling, the random moments of kindness, laughter, courage, and human connection that happen daily at my job just solidify how much I truly love being a nurse,” Curry wrote. “My patients, colleagues, and coworkers make all the hours of intense devotion and hard work completely worth it.”


Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or

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