The Catholic University of America

Nov. 12, 2014

Nursing School Hosts White Coat Ceremony

  White Coat Ceremony
  Nursing majors receive blessing.

Kelly Dossena was among more than 50 nursing students in white lab coats who processed down the aisle of the Crypt Church in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Dossena, a junior nursing major from Reston, Va., spotted her mom and roommate watching her as the ceremony began.

Dossena said she was grateful that the keynote speaker, retired Brig. Gen. William Bester, M.S.N 1985, reminded students of the importance of nurses and talked about his passion for the profession throughout his years in the U.S. Army, when he served as chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

Nursing majors transition from solely classroom-based studies to a combination of classroom and clinical experiences during their junior year. For a nursing student with a busy schedule, often waking up before 6 a.m., it is easy to forget the significance of pursuing a career in nursing, Dossena explained.

“He made nursing very real for us and let us know that what we are doing is important. This tough general has a lot of compassion,” said Dossena.

William Bester  
Brig. Gen. William Bester  

 The White Coat Ceremony last month was designed to remind student nurses of the need for patient-centered, humanistic care and to instill in them a commitment to the highest standards of the profession. This event was conducted in conjunction with the traditional blessing of student hands during their first semester of caring for patients.

“It’s so nice to be in a profession where you don’t have to search for your own idea of what you are doing to impact the world, you are constantly told that you have a big impact on people,” said Dossena. “The ceremony was a nice reminder.”

The ceremony was sponsored by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Arnold P. Gold Foundation (APGF). Of the 750 nursing schools that are members of the AACN, only 100 were chosen for the White Coat program.

For more than 20 years, White Coat ceremonies have been a rite of passage at medical schools. This is the first year that rite has been extended to nursing schools.

“There is an emphasis on spirituality in our nursing program that readies our students to treat not only the patients, but also their families, with the highest quality of care,” said Patricia McMullen, dean of the School of Nursing.

McMullen explained that students must take theology, philosophy, and ethics courses. The nursing school’s mission statement notes its aim to teach students “the skills to succeed and the values to guide.”

“These classes make us well rounded. Most people in nursing schools don’t have to take them,” said Dossena.

Reciting Pledge  
Nursing students recite the Nightingale pledge.  

More than 100 people attended the ceremony, which included an address by University President John Garvey. Students recited a modern version of the [Florence] Nightingale pledge and received an APGF pin, a Nightingale lamp, and a special nursing school coin. McMullen noted that the coins “serve as visual reminders of their promise to use the best available clinical evidence to care compassionately for all patients and their families.”

“The fact that nursing schools get to participate in the ceremony now shows the recognition that nursing school is on par with medical school,” said Michael Nguyen, a junior nursing major from Silver Spring, Md. “The ceremony not only recognizes our achievements in our nursing studies, but also recognizes our potential to excel in our nursing profession.”

“It’s pretty special,” said Dossena about being a member of the first class to participate in the White Coat Ceremony. “I feel like everything we’ve done so far has been following in the footsteps of the upperclassmen, but it’s really cool to be able to say we were the first ones for this.”



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