MANCHESTER, N.H. (CBS) – For Katie Smith, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a learning experience in more than one way.

Smith, a nurse at Dartmouth-Hitchcok Medical Center, studied throughout the last year to finish her degree online at Southern New Hampshire University while also working on the frontlines of the COVID pandemic.

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Throughout the year, Smith floated to different hospital units while also submitting a final project on nursing burnout.

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Katie Smith is surprised with her diploma. (Image Credit: SNHU)

On Tuesday, Smith’s colleagues told her she needed to come in for a meeting at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Instead, they surprised her with a ceremony, speakers and a diploma presentation. There was even a cap and gown waiting for her to put on.

Smith said she was “surprised and confused” by the festivities. She added that while she has plenty more to learn throughout her career, she knows the last year has been a learning experience unlike any other.

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“I’m definitely not the same nurse that I was when I started. I’ve grown a lot,” she said.

CBSBoston.com Staff