A crowd of family and friends watched on as the 50 members of the Bachelor of Science in Nursing class of 2016 were called on stage to be cloaked in white lab coats. The students received this honor in Kemper Recital Hall on Oct. 9.
For many years, White Coat ceremonies have been held in order to recognize classes of doctors and other healthcare related disciplines. These ceremonies consist of the standard white lab coats being placed on the class as an initiation. This year was the first year, nationwide, in which nurses were given a White Coat ceremony of their own.
In years past, nursing schools have held “capping” ceremonies to initiate new students. Such events have become less frequent do to the end of caps in nursing attire.
One hundred nursing schools around the country are now participating in the pilot program that holds White Coat ceremonies to mark nursing students’ initiation.
This national effort is sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Mosaic Life Care, previously known as Heartland Health, is providing local support.
“[The ceremony] is just a way that the two organizations felt we could elevate nursing to the same level as other professions,” Stephanie Corder, chair of the department of nursing and allied health, said.
Corder also commented that it was more than just a ceremony. She said that it was “fostering an ethic of patient-centered care.”
The white coats that the initiates received were each fastened with a pin of a stethoscope in the shape of a heart. The pins symbolized humanism and excellence.
After the initiates were cloaked, they recited a Pledge of Commitment that they had authored themselves.
“When you put the white coat on as a provider in the healthcare arena, it really means that you’re committed to patient-centered care that looks at the patient in a holistic and compassionate way,” Corder said.
In addition, Corder said that the Department of Nursing wanted to tailor the White Coat ceremony to fit nursing by calling it the “Lighting of the Lamp.” The ceremony was co-titled this as a symbol for Florence Nightingale, who was the founder of modern nursing, and also a woman known for carrying a lamp through dark hospital hallways to check on her patients.
Isaac Unruh, a man who suffered a paralyzing injury in a diving accident last year, also spoke at the ceremony. Unruh discussed his view on nurses and their practice from a patient’s point of view. He also talked about his appreciation for nurses and all that they do.
After the White Coat ceremony, initiates and their guests were lead to a dinner.
Michael Torno, senior vice president of the Assessment Technologies Institute in Leawood, Kan., appeared at the dinner. He proceeded to declare Julie Baldwin, assistant professor in the Department of Nursing and Allied Health, with the 2014 Nurse’s Touch Award.
Nominations for nurse educators were given by colleagues and a panel of nurses. Baldwin was just one of four nursing educators from across the country who received the award.
Baldwin, who has spent a lot of time in medical-surgical environments, discussed her appreciation for the award.
“I feel like I am no different than anyone else,” Baldwin said. “It is very humbling to have someone nominate me and then to be recognized.”
Baldwin also claimed that her inspiration has always been the patients.
“They inspire me to be a good person, they allow you in their world to take care of them, and it’s a very special place to be.” Baldwin said. “A ceremony like this really highlights that importance.”
Dr. Davin Turner of Mosaic Life Care closed the presentation at the White Coat ceremony dinner. He discussed caregiver collaboration and his views on nursing as a profession.
“Just as this ceremony has evolved,” Dr. Turner said, “so has healthcare.”
According to Corder, before the ceremony, the students had been working in simulation labs and on campus, but they had not actually touched a patient. The date for the White Coat ceremony was specifically chosen because it was a week before the students would finally be released into the clinical setting.
As part of a partnership with Mosaic Life Care, the students will be able experience an afternoon at Mosaic that is focused on the type of providers that they want to become.
“Sometimes in the world of healthcare, things get to be very mechanical,” Corder said. “And sometimes we lose sight of the human components. That’s a big hallmark for this program; to focus on the individual patient, and to be involved in the care that they receive.”