It has been a heartbreaking time at the University of Virginia.
As nurses and people who support them, we are uniquely positioned to understand the grief traumas like this one stir. We also understand the very human need we all have to lean on and support one another in the wake of violence and as events in our community continue to unfold.
Our hearts break for the three UVA students whose lives were cut short on Nov. 13, as they returned from a school field trip to Washington, D.C.—D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr., and Devin Chandler, three wonderful and promising young men—the two UVA students who were injured, and the families that love them. We also grieve for the suspected shooter, Christopher Darnell Jones Jr., also a UVA student, and the family members who love him.
Our students, faculty, and staff continue to feel (as we all do) frightened, baffled, anxious, violated, and angry— emotions very real and raw.
After a Monday night vigil on UVA's storied Lawn that gathered thousands in quiet contemplation, we gathered at the School of Nursing Tuesday morning with students from across the University over hot chocolate, with Kenny, the therapy dog, and other service animals mingling with us all. Mid-day Tuesday, our School's faculty and staff enjoyed, for the first time in two years, our traditional Thanksgiving Day luncheon, which was made even more meaningful and somber by what's happened in our community.
We repeatedly reminded students that their grades, exams, and clinicals could take a back seat to their well-being by encouraging them to attend specially developed programming from our Inclusion, Diversity, & Excellence Achievement (IDEA) and Compassionate Care Initiatives and seek support through the University's Student Health and Wellness and from one another. Grace and flexibility are and will continue to be the rule as we move into the latter part of our fall semester.
Ours is a community of caregivers. What I’ve observed in the aftermath of this tragedy has repeatedly reminded me of the deep and inherent spirit of compassion—precisely what made me want to return to UVA as dean. And while nothing can prepare us for times like these, we are a family and will move forward as one as we support one another and our extended UVA community. It is just what we nurses do.
I heard from so many of you last week, and thank each of you for keeping us and our UVA and UVA School of Nursing community in your thoughts and hearts. Your good wishes and support truly matter.
Thank you for reading this issue of VNL.
Marianne Baernholdt, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
Sadie Heath Cabaniss Professor and Dean