Taking the Oath: May School of Nursing and Health Sciences celebrates the second annual White Coat Ceremony

September 29, 2017

By Nina Mastandrea

Twenty-four junior nursing students stirred in their seats that Friday evening.

Clutching their white coats in their hands, Sept. 15 could have passed with no real significance for anyone outside of Evans Auditorium, but for the students who sat in their formal dress attire, surrounded by their nursing predecessors, this evening was long awaited.

Intended for junior nursing students in their first year of professional education, the White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage that often takes place during the first few weeks of the first semester.

“The event serves to welcome students to healthcare practice and elevate the value of humanism as the core of healthcare,” Dean of Nursing and Health Sciences, Dr. Laura Fero, said. “It provides a powerful emphasis on compassion in combination with scientific excellence.”

Songs and symbols of wisdom

Throughout the evening, nursing faculty, students as well as friends and families, listened to speeches by nursing program alumna Lindsay Coles and Director of RN to BSN Program, Dr. Claire Cline.

Coles ’11, who gave the invocation during the ceremony, currently works as a nurse at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Following Coles’ invocation, Dr. Fero welcomed students to the ceremony.

“This is going to be one of the most difficult journeys you will ever experience,” she said. “We are teaching you all to become better people and we are asking you to think and look at the world differently.”

Before inviting guest speaker Dr. Cline on stage, Dr. Fero recited a few verses from a song she felt explained the process of becoming a nurse. The song, Rachel Platten’s “Stand by You”, says:

Hands, put your empty hands in mine
And scars, show me all the scars you hide
And hey, if your wings are broken
Please take mine so yours can open too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you
Oh, tears make kaleidoscopes in your eyes
And hurt, I know you're hurting, but so am I
And love, if your wings are broken
Borrow mine so yours can open too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Dr. Cline, who took stage next, introduced the audience to some of her most cherished symbols in nursing. One by one, she held up her mother’s volunteer coat, her old nursing cap, Florence Nightingale’s lamp and one of her nursing pins.

“Each one of these items is a symbol that carries meaning to us [nurses],” she said. “The White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage, the first of many you will experience during your nursing career.”

Entering a new life chapter

Now it was time for the moment everyone had been waiting for—cloaking and pinning.

One by one, the students were called up to the stage. Each one, with their jackets still in hand, eagerly but carefully making their way to the platform, taking in each moment they could.

As each student slipped their arms into the jacket before resting it on their shoulders, it was clear to see how truly special the moment was for each individual. Once nervous grins turned unapologetically into full-tooth smiles as they used their hands to straighten and tidy their crisp jacket panels.
The smiles of the students were reflected equally in the expressions of those in the audience. Family, friends and faculty beamed as they watched their sons, daughters or students take the next leap into their professional career.

Each jacket is as unique as the student who slipped it on—a result of each student picking out the perfect jacket weeks before the ceremony. This was to ensure the right fit for the future nurses.

Perhaps just as moving as the cloaking was the moment following.

The nursing students now clothed in white, arms at their side and heads held high, were asked to stand for the reciting of the oath.

“The most important element of the ceremony is the oath that students take in front of family members, school leadership and their peers to acknowledge their obligation to caring for the patient,” Dr. Fero said.

The oath reads:

As a Nurse dedicated to providing the highest quality care and services, I solemnly pledge that I will: 

  • Consider the welfare of humanity and relief of suffering my primary concerns; 
  • Act in a compassionate and trustworthy manner in all aspects of my care; 
  • Apply my knowledge, experience, and skills to the best of my ability to assure optimal outcomes for my patients; 
  • Exercise sound professional judgment while abiding by legal and ethical requirements; 
  • Accept the lifelong obligation to improve my professional knowledge and competence; 
  • Promote, advocate for, and strive to protect the health, safety, and rights of the patient. 

With this pledge, I accept the duties and responsibilities that embody the nursing profession. 

I take this oath voluntarily with the full realization of the responsibility with which I am entrusted by the public.

Putting the passion into practice

Following the oath, students, faculty, family and friends gathered in the open space of Evans Auditorium before migrating to the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences—hugging, kissing and posing for photos along the way.

“Nursing is known as a profession full of compassion, presence and trust,” Dr. Cline said during her speech.

Those words hung around in the air as students took deep breaths to catch up and soak in the whirlwind of events.

Hannah Gortney, one of the 24 students who received their coats, said she was finally starting her journey to take better care of patients that need her.

“I want to become a nurse because I want to make a difference in this world,” she said. “I want to provide everyone with the care that they need, because everyone should have access to a perfect health care system.”

For Hector Serviat, starting his nursing career is a major milestone not only for him, but for his family too. Before coming to the U.S. to build a better life, Serviat’s family lived in Cuba.

He added that becoming a nurse was not only his way to make a difference in the world, but also make his family proud at the same time.

For the senior nursing students in the room, watching the juniors receive their coats was an entirely different sensation of pride.

“It is special watching them get their coats because after a year in the program you really start to become the nurse and feel the changes that they talk about in the ceremony,” Simona Criccolo said. She received her white coat alongside seniors in the program during the first White Coat Ceremony last year.
The process won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Congratulations to the junior nursing students and welcome to the May School of Nursing and Health Sciences!

Categories:  All College News,  Academics

Media Contact:

Nina Mastandrea  |  Content Manager
Tel: 828.898.8729  |  Email: mastandrean@lmc.edu