FNU Traditions: Building a Community, Part 1

Experiences on Campus and at Wendover


With roots tracing back to the early 1900s, Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is a school rich in history. The “FNU Traditions” blog series will give the friends and family of FNU a greater understanding of our many traditions, several of which date back to the days of our founder, Mary Breckinridge.

FNU founder Mary Breckinridge not only traveled throughout the mountains of Eastern Kentucky aiding underserved families, but she opened up her own home as well. Besides holding an annual Christmas party for hundreds of local people , she also regularly had nurses in the district join her in her log cabin for meals and fellowship.


Today, this tradition continues as FNU students are invited to Breckinridge’s home in Leslie County, KY, the Wendover Bed & Breakfast Inn. These special student dinner events occur during two educational sessions on campus. The first of the on campus sessions is named “Frontier Bound” as it is the initial welcome into the FNU community, prior to classes beginning (this orientation is called “Bridge Bound” for students who are admitted through the ADN Bridge Entry Option and “DNP Bound” for students in the Post-Master’s DNP program). The second on campus session, “Clinical Bound” is held after didactic classes are completed and prior to beginning the clinical experience.


Here are just a few traditions students and faculty take part in on campus and during the Wendover dinners:


Singing Amazing Grace: Meals at Wendover begin with students and faculty singing Amazing Grace, just as Mary Breckinridge and her guests did before every meal.


Bell Ringing: At the end of each Bound week before returning home, students circle around the chapel and take turns one-by-one ringing a bell to signify the beginning of a new chapter. At the end of Frontier Bound, it signifies the beginning of their journey as a student, and the end of Clinical Bound it signifies the beginning of their journey in Clinical work. Many students who come back for graduation will ring it one last time to mark the beginning of their career.


Circle-Up: The “Circle-Up” session is a Frontier Nursing University tradition that students, faculty, and staff have participated in for decades. At the end of each campus experience, students, faculty and staff join hands to form a circle. Each person in the circle is invited to reflect or share their thoughts, emotions or take-away points from the event they have just experienced. It is a time to share inspiring words and show appreciation to one another and to the Frontier experience as a whole.  Circling up is based upon an old Quaker tradition of taking a moment at the end of the day to share their thoughts with the community. As part of the FNU community, circling up continues virtually from home as a show of support when needed by members of the FNU community.


Follies at Bound: When the Community -based Nurse Midwifery Program (CNEP) distance education program started with an orientation in Pennsylvania, Kitty Ernst, a midwifery and maternity care pioneer and early graduate of Frontier’s nurse-midwifery program, was determined to encourage team building amongst the students. Since that time, all students and faculty that come to campus for Frontier Bound have to work together in teams to perform some sort of skit or performance to the group. Many of our students have developed life-long friendships from this fun team building activity.


Wide Neighborhoods Reading: The students return to Wendover during Clinical Bound for dinner. After dinner, faculty and students gather in the historic living room  underneath Mary Breckinridge’s portrait. Faculty then read excerpts from Mrs. Breckinridge’s book, Wide Neighborhoods. The selected words help students reflect and focus on why they want to go into healthcare and how they are each a part of Mrs. Breckinridge's mission and vision of service.


Giving of Hats, Scarves & Blankets: Years ago, the Daughters of the Colonials War took time to knit hats for the babies Frontier served. Today, the tradition continues as each Nurse-Midwife student is given a baby hat at the “Clinical Bound” dinner ceremony before Clinicals begin. The hat is then given to the first baby they help deliver. The student presents the mother with the baby cap and tells the story of the Frontier Nursing Service and Mary Breckinridge. Later Frontier added he Family Nurse Practitioner program and with the help of Dr. Anne Wasson the tradition continued by presenting each FNP student  a lap blanket  to give to an elderly client they connect with and share the story of FNS and  Mrs Breckinridge. Extending the tradition, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner students are given a hand knitted scarf to share with a client they have connected with and share the story of FNU.


These are just a few of the many traditions that weave the Frontier Nursing University community together.  Stay tuned for more Frontier traditions, coming soon!


Learn more about FNU Traditions in Part 2.