As row after row of Longwood nursing sophomores donned their bright new white coats for the first time, they marked an important transformative moment in the life of any pre-service nurse: entrance into clinical practice.
As the coats were helped on by nursing upperclassmen--a ritual that underscored the bonds between nurses--the smiles and applause cemented the moment in the sophomore’s minds.
"The white coat is the universal sign of the medical profession," said Dr. Deborah Ulmer, chair of the Longwood nursing department. "When students wear their white coats, they are accepting an enormous responsibility and making their first steps into the field."
Longwood’s inaugural Gold-AACN White Coat Ceremony for Nursing took place Thursday, Oct. 8, at 4 p.m. in Blackwell Ballroom. The white coat ceremony symbolizes the deep-rooted mission of both the university and the nursing program: commitment to the community and humanistic care. Underscoring those ideals, community partners and donors were present at the inaugural ceremony.
Dr. Terris Kennedy, formerly the assistant chief of the Army Nurse Corps in the office of the Army Surgeon General, spoke at the ceremony. Kennedy, who has decades of experience in both public and private nursing organizations, has taught in the nursing schools at Duke and Old Dominion universities and serves on the boards of several schools and hospitals. In her address, she called for a patient-centered approach to nursing and a commitment to community service.
"Dr. Kennedy is a vibrant, energetic nurse who has lived a life built on both providing patient-centered care and educating the next generation of nurses," said Ulmer. "She is an example to all of our students of a life of achievement built on a firm foundation of community mindedness."
The ceremony was made possible by a grant by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to support the Gold-AACN White Coat Ceremony for Nursing to promote compassionate care and a patient-centered approach to the nursing profession. The partnership between the foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing began funding white coat ceremonies in 2014.
White coat ceremonies have long been an important rite of passage at medical schools but have been growing in popularity for classes of nursing students. "By offering white coat ceremonies, our schools are sending a clear message to new nursing students that compassionate care must be a hallmark of their clinical practice," said Eileen Breslin, AACN president. "Securing a commitment to providing patient-centered care at the beginning of a nurse’s professional formation will help to raise the quality of care available to all patients."
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