Fairfield University's School of Nursing one of only 100 schools nationwide chosen to host prestigious White Coat Ceremony

Sophomores donned their white coats for first time, and pledged to live up to the high ideals of the School of Nursing and the nursing profession.

Fairfield University Nursing StudentsTraditionally, white coat ceremonies have been for medical students, a symbolic robing to remind them of their commitment to patients and their promise to engage in patient-focused, humanistic care. But in recent years, the tradition has spread to students in other healthcare fields, so when the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) sent out a call last spring, asking their 750 member schools if they would like to apply for a grant to host their own ceremony, Dr. Eileen O'Shea of Fairfield University's School of Nursing jumped at the chance.

"We were thrilled to be one of just 100 schools chosen to host a ceremony," said Dr. O'Shea, associate professor of nursing. "We decided to hold the ceremony for our sophomore students to mark their entry into clinical practice. It's very meaningful and symbolic to have them take the oath promising to be mindful of their commitment to their patients, to deliver compassionate and empathic care, before they begin working in the clinical setting."

The Arnold P. Gold Foundation, an organization whose mission includes the promotion of care that is humanistic, funded the grants. It was established in 1988 by colleagues at the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons.

By all accounts, the October 25 ceremony in the Egan Chapel was both joyous and moving. Students took an oath pledging to live up to the high ideals of the Fairfield University School of Nursing and the nursing profession, to uphold their commitment to honesty, integrity and ethical practice, and to protect the welfare of their patients. They acknowledged that their actions would reflect upon the School and upon their chosen profession.

Then, the 84 sophomores donned their white coats, to the applause of family and faculty surrounding them.

For Morgan Laiter, '17, of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, the White Coat Ceremony was a meaningful and unifying event for the sophomore nursing class. "It made me realize the importance of the strong nursing curriculum we have at Fairfield University, and has empowered me to go forward into my geriatric clinical this upcoming spring with a newfound sense of confidence and pride in my future profession," said Laiter.

Sarah Morrissette, '17, of Laconia, New Hampshire, also found it to be a bonding experience. "It reminded me of the goal at the end of nursing school, which is the ability to use our skills and education to help and comfort patients," she said. "It made me feel connected with my classmates, nursing professors, and the speakers. We all have the same purpose and drive to help others and it was exciting to see how we are getting closer and closer to this as we make our way through our nursing classes."

The guest speaker at the event was Linda Berger Spivack, RN, MS, CENP, the statewide director of the Connecticut Nursing Collaborative – Action Coalition. At the CNC-AC, she executes efforts throughout Connecticut to harness the power of the largest segment of the health care work force – nurses – to partner with physicians, health care organizations, and consumers. 

Spivack told students how healthcare is changing in ways that will "call upon each of you to take full advantage of joining a journey of transformation." "This white coat ceremony is an example of transformation," she noted. "The extension of this unique ceremony beyond medicine to include nursing is a clear and unequivocal statement of the value of interdisciplinary care, the value of team, the value of relationships. These relationships extend beyond the patient and include the relationships we forge with colleagues from all the disciplines."    

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 14, 2014

Vol. 47, No. 119

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