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White-coat ceremonies affirm nursing students commitment to profession

Fernando Mena-Carrasco

Nursing student Fernando Mena-Carrasco once felt nervous and insecure about his career choice. But a white coat ceremony in August at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore — the first for his school — changed everything.

“During the ceremony, I heard from leaders in the profession, who appeased my anxiety and made me feel capable of achieving the seemingly unattainable goal of becoming a nurse,” said Mena-Carrasco, who is in the BSN to MSN clinical residency program at Hopkins.

“I was held by my shoulders and offered a warm welcome into my new nursing identity. I was now part of a thread and a culture of solid traditions of helping people attain and sustain health.”

Johns Hopkins was one of about 100 schools of nursing nationwide to be selected to receive funding support for the ceremony from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and The Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Rite of passage

Claire Tindula

Medical schools have held the rite-of-passage-ceremony for more than 20 years, but this new collaboration between APGF and AACN marks the first coordinated effort at schools of nursing.

Mena-Carrasco was among 162 Johns Hopkins nursing students who received a white coat. The schools of nursing at the University of Maryland and Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore also were selected to participate.

“We were deeply honored and grateful to the foundation and AACN for funding this endeavor,” said Elizabeth “Ibby” Tanner, PhD, RN, FNGNA, associate professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology Center for Innovative Care in Aging. “We had been discussing having a white coat ceremony prior to this and this enabled it to happen.”

Students at Hopkins recited a modified Nightingale Pledge and received a pin. The ceremony involved only students and faculty.

“Students had just completed their orientation and this was our way of officially welcoming them to join us…and showing our support for them by physically placing the coats on the students, and by placing our hands on their shoulders to show our support for them as they begin their journey,” Tanner said.

Students say the white coat ceremony is a physical manifestation of their acceptance into the nursing profession.

“The white coat ceremony was a great way for me to feel welcomed into the nursing school community by the faculty. I was really excited to participate because it was just a symbolic way for us to begin our career,” said Jessica McGreehan, a student in the accelerated BSN program at Johns Hopkins.

Another highlight was seeing faculty and students “up there with great smiles on their faces getting ready to start school together. It felt like an event that brought out a lot of support and camaraderie,” McGreehan said.

Claire Tindula, who is in the accelerated BSN and is working toward master’s degrees in nursing and public health, said she was honored to be welcomed by the faculty, “all of whom have done such amazing things in their own nursing careers and are now here to support us and guide us along on our journey.”

The event “was a reminder that we are entering into this pristine profession that also comes with a lot of responsibility. And to never forget why we’re doing what we are doing, and that the most important thing is taking care of the patients,” Tindula said.

Receiving a white coat made Mena-Carrasco feel like he was a part of “something much larger than just a new degree. It reassured me I was being welcomed into a culture where I would be supported as a professional healthcare provider and patient advocate.”

Other white coat events

Notre Dame of Maryland University held a white coat ceremony earlier this month, welcoming 44 junior students as nursing majors into the entry-level baccalaureate nursing program.

“The Marikle Chapel was alive with music as the community gathered and filled the sacred space. Through music, word, and ritual, students were invited into the School of Nursing‘s culture of caring science,” said Mary T. Packard, PhD, RN, chairwoman of undergraduate studies, School of Nursing, Notre Dame of Maryland.

During the ceremony, nursing students received a pin signifying NDMU — and each student lit his or her own individual votive candle that collectively illuminated the sanctuary.

“I hope the white coat really brings home the message to our incoming students that nurses are trusted and respected professionals and that we are valued as part of the health system,” said assistant professor Hannah Murphy Buc, MSN, RN.

The University of Maryland will hold its ceremonies in Baltimore for BSN and CNL students Oct. 21, and Nov. 4 for BSN students at the Shady Grove location. About 200 students will participate.

Each student will receive a white coat and a pin with “humanism and excellence” on it, which reflects the school’s emphasis on exercising patient-centered care and humanism, according to Janice J, Hoffman, PhD, RN, ANEF, associate professor and assistant dean for the BSN program at the university.

Robin Farmer is a freelance writer.


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By | 2021-05-03T16:06:57-04:00 October 10th, 2014|Categories: Nursing News|0 Comments

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