Twenty-seven nursing students crossed the stage at Southeast Missouri State University's fall commencement ceremony Dec. 15, marking the successful completion of an academic journey and the beginning of a lifetime career in patient care.

Southeast's long tradition of preparing nursing graduates for outstanding placements in the health care industry is exemplified by McKinzie Jones of Destin who received a bachelor of science in nursing.

"Our pre-licensure BSN graduates are prepared to accept entry-level positions on any kind of unit. They are exceptionally well prepared for licensure and for practice when they graduate, and are highly valued by employers who interview them," said Dr. Gloria Green, chair of Southeast's department of nursing. "The December graduating class already has an employment rate of 92.6 percent."

Jones will be working as a nurse in a medical Step Down Unit at Methodist Le Bonheur Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. The unit cares for a variety of patients from the Intensive Care Unit and the emergency room. Her duties will include close monitoring and care of these patients, who are considered stable but could experience an unexpected downturn at any moment. She chose this position because of the learning opportunities it offers.

"On a medical floor you see more variety in patients as well as disease processes," she said. "Many experienced nurses recommend starting on a floor like this so you can gain more experience. I will become proficient in my nursing skills while learning as much as I can."

Jones said she loves the diverse opportunities available to nurses.

"There are an endless number of different positions and paths you can take within the career of nursing. Whether it's nursing informatics, school nursing, nursing management, intensive care nursing or quality improvement for nursing, the options are endless," she said. "I love the freedom this provides, and it makes me so eager to enter this career."

Jones said that her experiences as a student athlete as well as a nursing major helped her develop dedication, self-discipline and time management, qualities she finds important in nursing.

"Southeast's nursing program is fantastic," she said. "I could not be more thankful for my experiences at Southeast and how they have shaped me into the person I am today — a person who is excited, still eager to learn and ready to enter the working world."