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Nursing White Coat Ceremony Stresses the Value of Compassion  

This annual ceremony marks the official entrance into nursing school for first-year B.S.N. and C.N.L. students.

This annual ceremony marks the official entrance into nursing school for first-year B.S.N. and C.N.L. students.

Last Thursday, February 13, the University Center's Main Lounge was standing room only as 108 nursing students, along with their families and friends, gathered for the White Coat Ceremony at Seton Hall University's main campus. This annual ceremony marked the official entrance into nursing school for first-year students in the undergraduate four-year B.S.N., the accelerated and traditional second-degree B.S.N., and the master's-entry Clinical Nurse Leader programs.

Serving as masters of ceremony were Theresa Deehan, M.A.S., Assistant Dean for Business Affairs, and Elizabeth McDermott, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Student Services. Other members of the dais party included Kathleen Neville, Ph.D., R.N., Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, and Judy Lothian, Ph.D., R.N., Chair of the Graduate Department.

Father Zachary Swantek, S.T.D., chaplain for Seton Hall's Interprofessional Health Sciences Campus, delivered the opening invocation, as well as the liturgy for the traditional Blessing of the Hands, where each student was anointed with holy oil on their hands. Father Swantek called on the nursing students to "remember your identity and mission to heal the world."

Nursing students recited the Academic Integrity Oath as part of the White Coat Ceremony.

Nursing students recited the Academic Integrity Oath as part of the White Coat Ceremony.

During her welcome address, Marie Foley, Ph.D., R.N., Dean of the College of Nursing, explained that the first full-fledged White Coat Ceremony, held at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1993, was led by Dr. Arnold P. Gold, a teacher and pediatric neurologist. She went on to detail how Dr. Gold and his wife had established the Arnold P. Gold Foundation a few years prior "because they were concerned with all the technology that was involved in medicine. They didn't want physicians to lose that sense of humanism and caring." She explained how Dr. Gold feared that new scientific discoveries and advancements in technology were no longer focusing medicine on the whole person, rather relying on technology. 

"Since that time, we have seen technology in health care just explode," said Dean Foley. "Now we are making diagnoses using artificial intelligence, but we need to remember that artificial intelligence is only as good as the data that's input into that computer. So, while advances are exploding in technology, there will always be a need for informed and caring physicians, nurses and other healthcare providers."

Dean Foley concluded her address stressing the importance of never letting go of those values related to compassion and caring. "Today as you wear your white coat, you're carrying on the legacy of Dr. Gold, becoming servant leaders who exemplify love in this world," she said.

During her welcome address, Dean Marie Foley explained the origins of the first White Coat Ceremony.

During her welcome address, Dean Marie Foley explained the origins of the first White Coat Ceremony.

Associate Professor Kristi J. Stinson, Ph.D., R.N. also touched upon the same themes in her keynote address. "Take these values with you, the foundation you've learned here at the College of Nursing," she stated, "and take that knowledge with you on your journey into your profession."

The closing remarks were delivered by Judith Lucas, Ed.D., R.N., Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, who reflected on the significance of a key part of the ceremony. "The blessing of your hands should remind you of the importance of these values which you'll need since our hands have their limits," she said. Lucas continued with a reminder to the students that it is "the nurse on the health team who focuses on the whole person, who takes the lead, pulling together all the professional and family views of healthcare for that person, that family and that community."

Lucas concluded the event by welcoming the student nurses into the profession of nursing. "We want you to continue to develop your knowledge, your clinical judgment — and all those intervention skills you're working on — to become a confident and caring nurse," said Lucas. "But first, we want you to grow in humanistic values and use your ethical judgement as you carry out your nursing." She added the important distinction that all of these qualities embody the profession of nursing, "but they will also distinguish you as a Seton Hall nurse."

Categories: Health and Medicine

For more information, please contact:

  • Lorraine Joyce
  • (973) 378-2674
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