In mid-October, about 60 nursing students took part in the inaugural White Coat Ceremony at Seton Hall University College of Nursing in South Orange, N.J.
The ceremony will be a yearly tradition at the school as a way to recognize first-year students desire to provide humanistic, patient-centered care and to mark students entrance into the nursing field.
The White Coat Ceremony provides an opportunity for students entering nursing to reflect on the meaning of the obligations that nurses have: to advocate in support of their patients best interests, to support their patients health and safety and to provide compassionate, safe, effective and high-quality care, regardless of setting or specialty, said Marcia Gardner, PhD, RN, CPNP, CPN, associate dean for undergraduate programs and assessment.
The White Coat Ceremony was initiated in 1993 at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. About 96% of medical schools nationwide now offer the ceremony and 100 nursing schools in the U.S. – including Seton Hall – are adopting it through a partnership grant provided by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Professor and former dean Phyllis Hansell, EdD, RN, DPNAP, was instrumental in securing $3,000 from the partnership for Seton Hall.
New nursing students in the generic four-year BSN, accelerated and traditional second-degree BSN, or masters CNL programs were invited to purchase a white coat and attend the event with two guests of their choice. The white coat has replaced the traditional nurses cap, according to acting dean Marie Foley, PhD, RN, and now serves as a symbol for the nursing profession.
Students listened to keynote speaker Ruben Fernandez, RN, vice president of patient care services at Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, N.J., then had their hands anointed with oil by a pastor.
Were a Catholic university, which is why we decided to do the blessing of the hands, Foley said. That has also been a tradition in nursing for a long time because basically the hands are the symbol of the care that nurses provide.
Nursing students took oaths that included pledges to uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity in the classroom, and to provide compassionate care to all of humanity.
Melissa Torres, an 18 year-old freshman, called the ceremony an amazing event that inspired students.
It was very motivational, especially as a first-year student, because it made me realize that my career is going to actually help people, Torres said. Its actually going to matter.
Stefanie DellAringa is a freelance writer.